A blog series on being Transformed into the Image of Christ
A Tool for Building Up or Tearing Down
“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 would love to have a conversation with the person that came up with the “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” saying. I would curiously ask if they had ever been the recipient of harsh words or unwholesome talk. Maybe the motive was to disregard it if physical or bodily harm wasn’t caused, but whatever the case I would have to say that I believe there to be a great deal of power in words that are spoken. I would almost go as far as to say that physical pain that is temporary heals long before the harsh words spoken with intent to tear a person down. Just because the pain isn’t visible doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths”.
The word corrupt in this verse could actually be replaced with rotten. When I think of rotten, I think of no good, useless, unusable, and ruined. The other thing about rottenness is that when it touches something else, it often harms or contaminates it as well. And of all things that I want to come out of my mouth, I most definitely would not want rotten to cross my lips and for sure not come out of my mouth. I’m guessing that none of us would pick up a rotten piece of fruit and desire to eat it. Would you crave a banana that had turned black and lost its form, would you eat a watermelon that was brown and mushy? The answer is of course, No! Why? Because it’s rotten, it’s gross, it’s harmful, and causes more harm than it does good. So why do we find it ok to spit out words as if their rottenness has no effect?
In this verse, Paul is writing to the Church of Ephesus, and this section of the letter is titled “The New Life”. Living a transformed life as a follower of Christ isn’t just about the way we look at ourselves and those around us. It’s also about the words that come out of our mouths. And unlike the old children’s saying that we discussed early, words are certainly important as a child of God. Some may say; "oh they are just words", but the reality of words is that they do not just show up in your mind and make their way to your mouth. They are actually formed first in your heart.
"For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil." Matthew 12:34-35
As believers, our words should indicate that we have a heart devoted to Christ. What comes out of our mouths when we speak shows the state of our hearts. Just as an apple tree doesn’t produce a pear, the heart of an evil man doesn’t produce life-giving words that are capable of showing Christ. Paul tells them next that the words of the ones walking in the newness of life offered by God realize that their words are to not be corrupt but in addition to this that the words that are spoken are for “only such as is good for building up as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
There is purpose in our words. Not only can they tear someone down, but they can also build others up. I think of the encouraging words that have been spoken to me. They always seemed to come at a time when I needed them the most. I remember the moments where Godly friends loved me enough to speak wisdom and truth tomorrow. And I don't want to even imagine what my life would be today if that precious preacher hadn’t stood at the end of the aisle on that day and spoken the sweetest words to me that I would ever hear. That day he used his words and shared the Gospel with me. Because of the words that God had placed in his heart to speak, I then asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16
Here is the other reality about our words… Sometimes people disagree with them. When our words are used for the purpose that Christ intended them for, they speak the truth. Not my truth, my feelings, my thoughts –or your truth, your feelings, or your thoughts. But instead, they speak the truth of God in love for the purpose of growing others and His Kingdom. Everyone is not going to agree with the words that I am speaking, but if I am speaking the truths of the Bible then they aren’t disagreeing with me rather they are disagreeing with the Creator of the whole Universe. And truthfully, that is their choice. Our only responsibility is to live a life dedicated to the Lord and let our mouths speak what He has placed in our hearts.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37
Please don’t ever make the mistake and think that your words have no effect or are simply unimportant. Not only are evil words harming the one to whom they are spoken, but so are idle or careless words. Words that are not prayed through or thought through –words that are spoken on a whim –words that are useless –words that mean nothing. Jesus tells us here that we will be held accountable for such words one day.
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits." Proverbs 18:21
My challenge to you today is that you would wake up each morning and pray that “your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6). Fill your heart with God’s Word every day so that your words indicate your love for your Father in Heaven. Realize the power that your words hold. Realize that they are not for gossip or repayment for hurt feelings. Realize that you will be held accountable for the words you speak. And remind yourself daily that if they are harmful and “not good for building up” then ask God to quiet your tongue. Memorize and meditate on scripture and allow His truths to flow out of your mouth for the sake of making His name known.
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Our Bible Reading plan this week will cover the importance of our words.
Many of us have mastered the disciplines of gathering as a church on Sunday morning, but what does the rest of your week look like? What would it look like for you to have a tool that helped you grow in your relationship with the Lord every day of the week? I can tell you what it looks like because I’ve experienced it! Your relationship is going to grow. You may even realize that you are forming a true relationship for the first time! That’s what Growing in God is all about! Are you ready to take the next step? I want to walk along beside you. Purchase your Growing in God book today and being implementing spiritual disciplines into your life for the purpose of growth in Christ.