“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
– Ephesians 4:29
It’s surprising just how much pain a little bite of too hot pizza can cause the roof of your mouth, or how a sip of too hot coffee can scorch your tongue. Even more surprising is how much pain your tongue can cause you, your friends, your spouse, or your neighbor.
In the Bible, James says your tongue is like a little bit of fire that can set a whole forest ablaze!
You know it’s true. You are good at using your words as weapons. You know how to use them to start fires and fan the flames. You can flatter and you can smooth talk, and then say things that wound.
I’m guilty. That is why Ephesians 4:29 has been a significant verse for me for years. I know I sin continually with my speech, and I don’t want to. I memorized Ephesians 4:29 because it commands me to consider what I am supposed to be doing with my tongue. It’s satisfying when I am silent, encouraging, and grace giving. It is as painful as scalding hot pizza when my words are destructive.
Ephesians 4:29 gives you a simple set of purposes for the words you speak: encourage and give grace. It is a wonderful thing when you engage your obedience before you start talking.
So here’s the thing we can all change. Let’s ask ourselves, “Are the words in the pipeline between my brain and my mouth about to encourage and give grace?” When they are not, repurpose them or shut up. The world will be a better place!
My favorite part of this verse, and the most difficult, is the little phrase “as fits the occasion…” That means I’m supposed to actually be aware and considerate of all the people who will hear what I say. It means I should remember that every word I speak communicates what I value and what’s on my agenda. The kicker is, what I say paints a picture of my relationship with God.
Jesus said our words are simply fruit of our affections; he said our words are rooted in the soil of our heart. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)
The scorched earth my selfish words can produce is no greater than the scorched earth from whence they come. I don’t want to be scorched earth. I want to be a grace giver. I want to be an encourager. I want to be righteously considerate of other people. Don’t you?
So, here’s a challenge for you: consider what you say.