“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 ESV).
At an early age I learned that quick wit was tremendously successful as a self-defense mechanism. It really didn’t matter if that wit was self-deprecating or biting retort to a verbal aggressor. My sense of humor has gotten me out of a lot of tense situations (and into some as well!).
Having practiced the “martial art” of Witjitsu over the course of a few decades, I have found it difficult to walk away from it. I have tried holding my tongue to no avail. The words seem to come out of my mouth before I think them!
The verse above is one that I dread coming to each time I read through the New Testament. No one likes to be reminded of their shortcomings! But I had a change of perspective when I arrived in Ephesians recently.
My wit has really always been about me. Deflecting attacks. Preemptive strikes. Laughs at another’s expense. But the words, “that it may give grace to those who hear”, really jumped out at me this time. I have been giving that which no one wants in order to get what I want. But Paul said that my words should build up and give grace.
Have I ever led someone to faith in Christ by berating them? No. Have I demonstrated the mercy and kindness of the Lord with my words or demonstrated that we Christians are no better than anyone else? Have I seasoned my speech with salt (Colossians 4:6), or rubbed salt into someone’s wounds?
I’m sure that I am “preaching to the choir,” but I feel like I’m gathering some steam. All too often we forget that everything we see was created by words. It was words that defined sin, and it was the Word that provided redemption from sin. Relationships are begun and strengthened by words. Words can mean the difference between life and death.
I have found renewed motivation to use my words more carefully. I am determined to cease spreading fertilizer with my words and begin spreading grace instead.
The world will be much better off when I do. And the church will be better off as well.
Say “Amen” or say “Ouch”!