“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
Our words have incredible power. We can use them to bring blessings and life, or to rain down curses and death. The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” could not be further from the truth. Often, the wounds inflicted by words go much deeper and last much longer than a physical wound ever could. Words are powerful…and the tongue can be most difficult to control.
Thankfully, Scripture gives us some pretty simple guidelines to help us use our words in a way that glorifies God. One such guideline is found in Ephesians 4:29 when Paul urges believers to be selective in the thoughts that we allow to escape through our lips. In essence, he tells us the same thing mothers have been saying forever, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Perhaps the first moms to give that advice were members of the Church at Ephesus…who knows?
So how do we determine if what we have to say is “nice,” as mom would put it? We can ask ourselves a few questions based on Ephesians 4:29. First, is what I am about to say wholesome? To answer this question, it helps to understand the meaning of the word translated “unwholesome” in its original form. It means, “Rotten, bad, worthless.” So are my words of any worth? If not, don’t say them. Second, do my words help build others up, according to their needs? Will my words help others to grow in godliness? And finally, do my words benefit the person listening? In the original language, this question could read, “Are my words a gift of grace to the person I am talking to?”
Thinking through these guidelines will help us to speak in a way that glorifies Christ and gives grace to those who hear them. In a world full of conflict, discord, and hate, how we speak as followers of Christ is so important. I am convinced that if we filtered our thoughts through these guidelines before we shared them, much less would come out of our mouths. There would be less talking and more listening. Less arguing and more forgiving. Less division and more unity.
Jesus, Thank You for Your perfect Word that is able to guide me in wisdom and truth in regards to the power of my words. Please help me to remember to ask myself these questions before I speak so that my words would be life giving. In Jesus’ Name, amen.