Ephesians 4:29 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.
The NIV isn’t bad here, but the Japanese strikes me a bit more strongly. “Don’t let any bad words at all come out of your mouths. Just, when it is necessary, speak things that are useful in nurturing people, so that those who hear may receive grace.” That makes it a lot broader than “Don’t cuss or talk dirty.” Sadly, some Christians, even, pepper their conversations with words that even just a few years ago would have been shocking. Those who make no bones about being “on the other side” can’t seem to say anything without “f-bombs!” It is easy to get distracted by such behavior and feel that our words are “pure and holy,” but as I said, what Paul is saying here is much broader than that. Do our words nurture? Are our words instruments of grace? We quote Jesus’ words, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matthew 5:48) but we don’t think about all the ramifications of that. We always have room to grow, and we need to be intentional in doing so. Since we are ambassadors for Christ, (2 Corinthians 5:20) our words and actions need to be in harmony with Him (in step with the Holy Spirit, as came up recently) all the time. Our words aren’t simply to be innocent, but “useful in nurturing” and “instruments of grace.”
This couldn’t be any more pointedly addressed to me! I am a man of words. I talk, a lot. I don’t “cuss or talk dirty,” but my words don’t always nurture; sometimes they tear down. Just the other day I said something that certainly comes under the category of “careless” or “unprofitable” words for which I will have to answer before God. (Matthew 12:36) One of the members here has a part-time job at a tapioca drink shop, and the first time I went in there I declined any of their product, saying that my wife and I don’t like tapioca. That got the shop owner in a really bad mood, which in turn reflected on our church member. I could have declined the drink without using the rather strong word for “dislike” that I did, but I was careless and caused damage. I have hurt that particular member before, rather badly, by saying things I didn’t need to say, and this incident certainly didn’t nurture them! I have been given a gift for words, and I must be a careful, faithful steward of that gift, indeed nurturing and blessing my hearers.
Father, thank You for this clear Word of correction. I pray that I would indeed continue to grow, so that I may accurately represent Christ to all those around me and in no way cause them to turn away from You. Thank You. Praise God!