“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 ESV)
When my wife and I were married, we received a large embroidery as a wedding gift from an older member of my church. This embroidery consisted of the words of the above verse. And when we received it, it was framed and ready to hang on the wall.
I don’t know if I realized it at the time, but what a fitting gift this is for marriage. It’s fitting because it’s easy for us to be critical of our spouse. It’s easy for us to speak words that are destructive to their soul. And even though logic seems to indicate that we’d save our kindest words for those we love most, the opposite is typically the case.
We’re often more harsh with our spouse than anyone else. Those who are closest to us often bear the brunt of our negativity. We often speak to them in a way that we wouldn’t speak to anyone else. We’re often rude and insulting. We often speak to them in a way that is ill-mannered and condescending.
This verse serves as a reminder that, by our words, we’re to seek the building up of one another. We’re to seek, with our words, to bless one another. And we’re to use every opportunity for this purpose.
Now, this verse isn’t speaking directly to marriage. It speaks to all of life, which includes marriage and so much more. It speaks to every relationship in which we find ourselves.
We’re to refrain from corrupting talk. The word translated “corrupting” means decayed or unusable. It refers to talk that is evil and unwholesome. In essence, we’re being told to refrain from talk that isn’t beneficial to others.
On the positive end, we’re to speak words that lead to the building up of others. We’re to speak words that encourage, instruct, and bless others. And I realize this is easier said than done.
I say this because we often feel that others aren’t deserving of kind words. And this leads us to speak to them in a way that is hurtful. At the very least, it leads us to say nothing to them at all.
We must bear in mind that Paul tells us to speak words that give grace to those who hear. And you may remember that grace is an undeserved gift. This tells us that we shouldn’t speak kind and encouraging words only to those who are deserving. That doesn’t fit the definition of grace. We’re to speak in this way to those who are undeserving.
So, no matter how others may be treating us, and no matter how they may speak to us, we’re to refrain from tearing them down. We’re to refrain from unwholesome talk. Even if we feel they’re undeserving, we’re to speak to them in a way that will bless them.
This is an area in which we all struggle. Even though I fail regularly, it’s an area that I’ve made an effort to keep in the forefront of my mind. I’ve tried to remain conscious of what I say and how I say it.
It’s also an area that I’ve asked God to keep under control. Because I’m unable to do so on my own, I need his love to take control of both my heart and my tongue. And, by his grace, I pray that I’ll grow in this area.
Let us all offer to God our mouth. Let us offer to him our speech. Let us ask him to forgive us for our failure. And let’s ask him to use our words in a way that will be a blessing to all of those around us, to all of those who hear the words that we speak.