Your Words Have More Power Than You Might ImagineDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
In yesterday's reflection, we saw that our words have power either to hurt others or to build them up. We were encouraged by Ephesians 4:29 to use the power of our words to serve others as a channel of God's grace in their lives.
The next verse in Ephesians adds something quite astounding, showing us that our words have even more power than we might ever have imagined. Let's look carefully at verses 29 and 30: "(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. (30) And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." The placement of verse 30 links it to verse 29, as does the connective "and" (kai in Greek). Verse 30 adds a bit more about the danger of unwholesome talk. Not only does it tear people down rather than building them up, but also it grieves the Holy Spirit of God.
This passage reveals that our words can actually grieve God's Spirit. Now this, I suggest, is a stunning and unsettling thought. Yes, I don't want to hurt people with my words (except, perhaps, at times, when I'm angry or hurt and want revenge). But I really, really, really don't want to grieve the Holy Spirit. I don't ever want to do this.
The verb translated here as "grieve" means "to cause severe mental or emotional distress." Some commentators worry about the notion that our behavior can make God feel bad, emphasizing that this is just a metaphor. Yet, given that we are created in God's image, and given biblical language about God's joy and delight in us (see Zeph. 3:17; Ps. 147:11), I wouldn't want to subvert the plain meaning of Ephesians 4:30. Though we cannot fully comprehend it, we can actually cause the Holy Spirit to grieve. We can hurt, not just people, but even the Spirit of God. We can do so, in particular, by using unwholesome words that wound others and shatter Christian community.
Tomorrow, we'll look again at this verse to discover more about why we can grieve the Spirit. For now, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you ever think that your words can grieve the Spirit of God? How does this teaching make you feel? Can you remember times when your words may very well have grieved the Spirit? Do you think your words might have the power to give delight to God's Spirit?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the gift of your Spirit, who lives within me, who guides and empowers me, and who helps me to be more like you. Forgive me, Lord, for the ways my words and deeds have grieved your Spirit. Help me to speak and act in ways that honor you, glorify you, and give delight to you. In particular, may I speak to others in ways that please you. 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 this 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.