If our battle for righteousness begins with truth, and our central calling is to both live and proclaim God’s truth, then we must be continually vigilant against deception and spiritual lies. After all, our enemy is described as a deceitful schemer and a prowling lion seeking its prey: “Put on all of God’s amor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. … When [the devil] lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. … Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (Eph. 6:11; John 8:44b; 1 Pet. 5:8).
To protect our minds and actions, we must guard our emotions. The wisest man ever to live writes, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Prov. 4:23). Elsewhere, the apostle Paul cautions that anger can make us particularly susceptible to the devil’s deceitful schemes: “‘Don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (Eph. 4:26–27).
The Greek word translated as “foothold” is topos, and it generally carries the idea of a place. It is also translated as a spot, a space, a room, a location, or a dwelling place. In short, Paul commands us not to give the devil any opportunity to find even the smallest dwelling place in our lives. We might think of this as denying the devil the opportunity to erect a campsite within our heart, meaning the command center for our emotions.
The context speaks of becoming angry. Of everything that could provide the devil a foothold, it is interesting that Paul chooses to focus on anger. Perhaps this is because we tend not to think clearly when we are angry, which makes us more susceptible to believing lies and false arguments. Thus, anger is one of the greatest threats to truth—even if that anger is justified.
What begins as a campsite for the devil can become an established dwelling place, like a home. Our anger can permit spiritual lies to penetrate our hearts, and if not quickly purged, they can become a regular part of our thinking. If we are not careful, even the smallest spiritual lie may eventually become a stronghold, establishing itself as a critical part of our worldview (2 Cor. 10:3–5). Therefore, becoming God’s cultural change agents involves guarding our emotions.
The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament. s.v. “topos” G5117. Word Study Series. Edited by Spiros Zodhiates. Revised ed. Chattanooga, AMG Publishers, 1993.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Biblegateway.com.