Best of Daily Reflections: Use the Power of Your Words for Good
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.
As you may recall, in Ephesians 4:22-24 our life in Christ is pictured as a matter of putting off the old self and putting on the new. We get rid of the negative and dress up in the positive. The verses that follow offer specific applications of this general principle. In 4:25, we're to put off falsehood and speak truthfully instead. In 4:26, we're to take off sinful expressions of anger. In 4:28, thieves are to stop stealing and start working.
Ephesians 4:29 continues this pattern of moral exhortation, beginning with the negative to be rejected before moving to the positive to be embraced: "Do not let any unwholesome [sapros] talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful [agathos] for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." The Greek word sapros can mean "rotten, of poor quality, bad, or harmful." It shows up in the saying of Jesus, "[E]very good [agathon] tree bears good fruit, but a bad [sapron] tree bears bad fruit" (Matt. 7:17). As Christians, we need to put away words that harm and hurt others, words that tear down rather than building up.
By contrast, we are to use our language positively. The language that comes out of our mouths should be "helpful [agathos] for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (4:29). The word translated here as "helpful" can simply mean "good." Note two ways in which we can use the power of words for good. First, our words can build up people according to their needs. Second, our words can "benefit those who listen." The original Greek is stronger than this. It says that our words can "give grace to those who hear them." That's right. Your words can be a source of grace to others.
Ephesians 4:29 challenges all of us to consider how we use the power of our words. Do your words sometimes tear down or hurt others? Do you get stuck in complaining that discourages others and fractures community? Or do you use the power of speech for good, for building up those around you and for being a channel of God's grace to them?
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: As you think about these questions, you might ask yourself: How would my colleagues at work describe the impact of my words? How would my close friends or family members talk about how I use the power of my words? Am I known as someone who regularly builds up others? Do I see myself as a channel of God's grace through my words? Would others see me this way?
PRAYER: Gracious God, your Word challenges me today. Though I'm not one to use lots of "bad language," there are times when I revel in complaining or gossip. I can use my words in ways that hurt others and break down community. Forgive me, Lord.
Help me to steward well the power of my words. May I see opportunities to build up others and seize these opportunities. May I find ways to share your grace with others throughout the day, whether I'm at work or at home, hanging out with friends or interacting with a checkout clerk. Help me to use the power of my words for good, for your good, Lord, and for the good of others. Amen.
Sports for the Glory of God
If God has created humanity with bodies that are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” we need to develop a Christian way of living that incorporates play and recreation, leisure and competition, sports and athletics. Faith in the Creator and Redeemer should lead us to identify the way sports and athletics are meant to be, discern when something is wrong with sports in our broken and sinful culture, and imagine ways to be instruments of redemption in this sphere. In the series Sports for the Glory of God we engage with stories of people who are working through these issues on a daily basis.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in The H. E. Butt Family Foundation.