I've been thinking a lot about my words lately. Pondering their power - especially in the lives of the people I love most. I've been challenged by this admonition in Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth; but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment that it may give grace to those who hear.” - Ephesians 4:29
Some of us would have a field day with the first part of that verse. Making a list and checking it twice. Policing which words are naughty and which ones are nice. Isn’t that our tendency? To layer on rules and prohibit certain words.
But I think these sentences are about more than that. They speak to something beyond biting my tongue when I want to cuss.
Because, believe me, I know plenty of people who don’t use the f-word. But, if I’m honest, I can’t really say that their words bring edification and grace that matches the need of the moment. Surely you’ve been verbally “kicked in the gut” by someone without the use of a single cuss word. Or maybe you can think of someone that you just know has some complaint on the tip of her tongue. You see her coming and already your heart feels heavy.
In reality, unwholesome words can take a lot of forms. Ridicule. Condemnation. Gossip. Complaining.
What if instead of focusing on a list of words we shouldn’t use, we embraced the standard Paul sets forth in the second part of the sentence. What if we really did only use words that edified? What if our words gave grace to those who heard them?
What does it even mean to edify? The dictionaries I used, had these definitions: to establish; to educate morally or spiritually; to improve; to strengthen. To instruct especially so as to encourage intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement. So basically, words that edify are words that build up and cause growth. They strengthen. They don’t destroy and tear down.
And what about words that give grace? Grace is basically a gift. Something unmerited by the recipient. Gift words. Wow.
I can’t even imagine how it would affect my husband and my kids and the people I interact with day to day if I made it my goal to let my words be a gift. If I considered what I was about to say to see if it really would strengthen and establish the hearer. And, I’m not talking about fake words. Or a plastered-on happy outlook on life. I’m talking about a heart that really produces such words.
Can you say that your words are a gift to the people around you?
Shannon, In A Mirror Dimly Lit