Foul or fruitful language
February 17, 2022, 11:37 AM

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

More often than not, we use this scripture to discourage foul language or, more specifically, saying certain four-letter words. But what if its intent goes much deeper? The word unwholesome means "not conducive to health or well-being." So a more accurate perspective would be, "do not let your words be hurtful…" 

How many of us have diligently sought to eliminate bad words from our vocabulary, all the while missing the greater message of this passage? We haven't disciplined ourselves to remove all that might be hurtful, and only speak what is helpful. Also, some of us put so much emphasis on WHAT we say that we have failed to realize HOW we say it is equally important. 

Disciplining ourselves to speak only what is helpful takes immense awareness, self-control, and effort. In addition to words of encouragement and affirmation, perhaps the most useful and beneficial tool to build others up is truth. John 1 reveals that Jesus is the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth. 

Many of us would fall only into one of these categories. Grace or truth. But they are inseparable. Grace without truth isn't really grace, and truth without grace isn't really truth. So, we are not champions of truth merely for the sake of truth; we are champions of truth for the sake of love. There is no greater truth than the Word of God. But we can even use the Word of God for harm. Scripture itself refers to the Word of God as a fire, a hammer, and a sword. So if the Word of God is like things these things, we can do significant damage with it if we don't steward it well. 

Proverbs 12:18 says, "The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." The Word of God, when wielded recklessly, can do great harm. In John 18, when the high priests come to take Jesus captive, Peter takes a sword and cuts off one of the men's ear. But Peter was a fisherman, not a soldier - he wasn't trying to cut off the soldier's ear. He was trying to cut off his head. Then we see Jesus come and heal the man. 

I wonder how often we as Christians recklessly wield the Word of God in this way, needing the Holy Spirit to come after us and mend and restore what we've torn down. It is not enough to recite Scripture. We must learn to wield the power of God's Word with careful, thoughtful precision. Because of its destructive potential, the temptation exists to avoid speaking the truth altogether. But when we immerse our words in love and grace, the truth brings healing and freedom. Where has the Lord revealed that your speech may be harmful in ways you were previously unaware of?

PRAYER: Father God, continue to reveal how I might speak only what is helpful and beneficial. May I be so compelled by the sacrificial love of Christ that I would learn to wield the power of Your Word with the same sacrificial love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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