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
I got my picture taken by the red light camera last Sunday – on my way to church! I spilled a cup of hot oatmeal in my lap and while I was messing with it I wasn’t paying attention to the red light I blew past. Oh I stopped… I just stopped about thirty feet past where I was supposed to stop. “Poof…Smile…That’ll be 75 bucks.”
What a fiasco! A little bit of oatmeal spills out and messes up my pants, my car seat, and my wallet.
It’s surprising what a little bit of hot oatmeal can do to your commute, or a little bit of too hot pizza can do to the roof of your mouth, or a sip of too hot coffee can do to your tongue. Even more surprising is what your tongue can do to your life, your friends, your spouse, 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 know how to use your tongue as a weapon. You know how to use it to start fires and to fight fire with fire. You can flatter and flog with it and you can smooth talk and swear.
That is why Ephesians 4:29 has been a significant verse for me for years – because I know I sin continually with my tongue, and I don’t want to. I like this verse because it causes me to consider what I am supposed to be doing with my tongue and it gives me a path to confession and repentance when my mouth spills corrupting talk. This verse is sweet when I am silent, encouraging, and grace giving but sour as lemons when I sin. I like that.
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 speak and ask yourself “Are the words in the pipeline between my brain and my pie hole about to encourage and give grace?” When not, repurpose or shut up.
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 notice and be considerate of all the people who will hear what I say. It means that I need to consider the situation of the other person and not just my own self-centeredness. It means I should remember that every word I speak communicates what I value, what’s on my agenda, even describes my relationship with God, and that’s the kicker.
Jesus said our words are just the fruit of our nature; he said our words are only rooted in the soil of our heart. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) When I hear my words I am too often confronted with my corrupted heart. The scorched earth my 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 Kingdom considerate of other people. I want to be the guy who has the heart to 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.