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)
Those of us who have been born-again through faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins are God’s children [John 1:12]. At the moment God forgave us we were changed into new creations [2 Corinthians 5:17]. As such, God expects us to no longer act like we used to (and the way the world still does) but to act in a way that is compatible with our membership in His family.
Over the previous three days we learned that our behavior should change by not lying, controlling our anger, and by working hard. Today we come to the fourth change: we are to let no corrupting talk come out of [our] mouths.
The Greek word translated “corrupting” is σαπροσ (pronounced: sap-ros’) which means “rotten, putrefied; unfit for any use”. In ancient Greek culture it was used to describe rotten food that was not fit for consumption.
Words that are complaining, gossiping, blaming, mocking, insulting, argumentative, profane, or crude would fit this description. We should evaluate our words while they are still thoughts. If they are not nourishing, like healthy food, then we should not say them.
This is a pretty fitting description of the way the world speaks. Just turn on any sitcom and you’ll see that most of the humor is either crude jokes or insults. The overwhelming majority of TV and Internet news are filled with negativity and exposition of people’s flaws and mistakes for the sole purpose of attracting viewers. Negativity sells. And our culture is awash in it.
But, not unexpectedly, this is not how God wants His children to speak [Colossians 3:8]. He wants us to say only that which is good for building up others. Certainly this can, and should, include appropriately conveyed constructive criticism – this very passage we’re studying is constructive advice. But it is the intent that determines the value of one’s statements. If the intent of one’s remarks is to put people down or to promote self, then they are not pleasing to God. Our words should be encouraging, appreciative, gentle, and edifying.
The reason behind all of this is to give grace to those who hear. Grace is undeserved. We may think someone deserves to be put down with harsh words. But this would not be helpful [Proverbs 12:18]. Instead, give them what they don’t deserve – grace – with words that build them up. Alternatively, if we can’t say something nice, we should not say anything (cliché, but biblical).
This is how God treats us. He does not condemn. He does not remind us of our mistakes or flaws. He doesn’t whine or complain that we are sinners. Instead He is patient and encouraging as He teaches us with His words – both in the Bible and as He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit.
The world would be a much better place if we treated people similarly.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.