"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Ephesians 5:15-17)Perhaps the most literal translation of this verse is, "See, then, how exactly ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise." (Ephesians 5:15 YLT) while others translate it as, "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise." (Ephesians 5:15 NKJV) The idea is that we should not go through life blindly, oblivious to how we are walking and the situations and circumstances that surround us. Life does not just happen. The fool simply goes along with everything that comes his way, but the wise examines everything, constantly looking and scrutinizing his life and ever aware of the situations and circumstances that surrounds him. To walk circumspectly means to look around, to see the full 360 degrees of your life, to look forward, sideways, and behind. It is a walk that it ever vigilant, always watching, and never slumbering. It is a life that is fully aware, fully awake, and fully engaged.
As we walk circumspectly, Paul encourages to make the most of our time. The Greeks have two words for time, the first is "chronos" which refers to the sequential passing of time and the other is "kairos" which refers to specific occasions and opportunities. When we think of making the most of our time we often think of "time management" where we try and optimize our schedule by making efficient use of our "chronos". However, here Paul is speaking of making the most of our "kairos" moments. While life progress relentlessly through chronos, it is those kairos moments in which life takes meaning and where the real value of life is found. In trying to optimize our time management, we can become so efficient at being busy that we miss the real opportunities of life. It has been said that we should "stop and smell the roses" which is the same as taking time to putting chronos aside that we might find value in those kairos moments of life.
The Greek word translated here as, "making the most" literally means to redeem, to buy back, or to buy up. Opportunities are always there for our taking, but often we pass right on by them and forfeit the blessings that could be ours and others in those moments. Paul told us that we have been, "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) God has created us for the very moments that He has prepared for us but we must seize, or "buy up" those opportunity if we are to make the most of them, both in our lives and in the lives of others. In order to buy up the opportunities that come our way we must be vigilant in looking for them, selfless in giving up our will and plans to take hold of them, and courageous to act on them when they come our way. Paul says that we are to do this because the "days are evil." This term does not mean evil in the moral since but is a derivative of a Greek word that means "toil" and by extension, "anguish". If we let life just happen, it will bury us in a mountain of work and obligations that will consume our entire life, A life lived on auto-pilot is a life consumed with work and toil and a life that is void of the very moments that make life worth living. If we do not intentionally take time to find those moments in life that God has created us to take hold of, then we will miss the very purpose for which we have been created.
Finally, Paul exhorts us not to be foolish but to understand the will of the Lord for our lives. The Greek term for "foolish" means to be "mindless" and "stupid" regarding life and how it works. The fool takes no thought of life nor does he ever take time to contemplate life; what is its meaning, what is its purpose, and what makes life worth living. The fool is driven through life by the evil winds of the day while the wise man takes hold of life, making himself the master of his life rather than letting life master him. This takes understanding of both life and the will of God for us. The Greek word for "understand" means to "put together" and it is the mental process by which we examine life in the light of the word of God, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, that we might understand what and how we are to live. Most of us never contemplate life, we just accept it as it is, but Paul is asking us to examine our lives in the light of the will of God that we might better understand what life could be, not just what it is, and that we might then, by faith, forge ahead to redeem and buy back that life that God has for us. To find life we must find the will of God, to understand life we must understand the will of God, and to life life to its fullest we must embrace and live in the will of God for our lives.