There are times when the Word of God explodes into your situation. That is fully to be expected because the Word of God is alive; these are the living oracles of God. The word of God is alive and active we read in Hebrews 4:12a. Have you ever felt the explosion which comes from reading Ephesians 4:29? Why not have a go now and see what impact it has on you? This Word from God says: 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. Let us then consider something of the meaning of this verse.
First of all, notice the zero-tolerance in the verse. It does not say, “Reduce as much as you can your unwholesome talk.” Rather it says that there should be no unwholesome talk coming out of our mouths. And that means zero unwholesome talk. But what is unwholesome talk? It is that which is essentially bad and corrupt. It is that which comes out of our mouths and harms and destroys others. Sometimes it is not just the words we say, it is how we say it. Essentially, good words can become unwholesome when they are uttered with a sarcastic snarl. We must be careful about what we say and how we say it.
Rather what we need to be doing is using our mouths for the building up of others. Before we say anything we should always be thinking whether or not it will be beneficial for those who hear it. Is what I am going to say essentially good? If we are speaking in a good and helpful way, then our words will be put to good use; they will be edifying words. Our speaking should be with the goal of bringing spiritual strengthening to those we speak to.
Let us stop here to think about the mindless chatter that so easily comes from our mouths. Should we not take time to examine our words to make sure they are beneficial to others. The words of our Lord Jesus strike us here when he says But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. (Matt. 12:36). This does not exclude everyday normal conversation which oils relationships. However, it must make us think about what actually is coming from our mouths. Let us be wary of speaking worthless words.
As we think about these good words which edify, we are prompted to think that our speech should be thoughtfully delivered. We have to realise that good words are not always beneficial words. This is so because we have not considered our words in the light of the condition and circumstances of the hearer. Accordingly, our verse exhorts us to think about edifying others according to their needs. There is a sense that good words can become the wrong words when they are said at the wrong time. So we need to consider who we are speaking to and what their present circumstances are.
If you look at the ministry of our Saviour then you see that, as he interacted with people, he was continually asking questions. Through questions we find out what situation those we are speaking to are in and we can discern their needs. Once this is done, we can seek to match our words to their situation. Behind such an approach is a self-sacrificing attitude which puts our tongues to use for the benefit of others and not our selfish indulgence.
We need to be careful, as well, about who is listening to our words. Paul tells the Ephesians to make sure that their speech may benefit those who listen (v29b). One thing to think about here is that of those who may be overhearing what we say. Our words may be fully appropriate for the person we are speaking to. However, they may be harmful for others who may hear. This may be particularly the case when children are involved. So whoever is hearing our words, whether they be directly or indirectly, we should be concerned that they are receiving things which will benefit them.
In making sure that our words are good, edifying and beneficial, this does not mean that we should never speak strong words. There are times when the needs of the people or person we are speaking to necessitate that we use strong words. Moreover, our words may not always be welcomed, but that does not take away from the fact that they were the proper words at that time. Remember as the Lord spoke his words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23, these were strong words which did not boost his popularity with them! However, they were good words intended to benefit the hearers by bringing them to repentance.
When we have felt the explosion of these words into our lives one response could be that we determine to reform the way we speak. However, we need to remember that it is, as our Saviour says, For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Matt. 12:34b). For our words to be of the right quality they have to come from a heart of the right quality. And our hearts are only in the best shape when we have the life of Jesus flowing through them. Let us make sure we are continually walking in fellowship with Him.
Let us then conclude with the words of the Psalmist: May the words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14). Amen
Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of October 2012