Tuesday, March 1, 2011

[ Unwholesome Speech ]*

Our friend, Patty, is a very talented (and successful) professional writer.  Today she wrote a devotional that spoke directly to my heart.  I think it is because we are spending a lot of time in prayer right now about important decisions.  Or maybe it is because God is leading us to DO MORE and TALK LESS.  Or maybe it is because I am anxiety over how people will respond to our decisions and what words people will choose to share with us.  Whatever the reasons, it was a good'un and I wanted to share it with anyone else who might benefit from it.  Take it away, Patty!

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Anyone who knows me knows I am a talker. I come by the gift of gab honestly. My grandfather was an exceptional story-teller and conversationalist. He never met a stranger. But people loved him because, despite the fact that he could talk your ear off, he loved people and they knew it because he spoke with kindness and affection.

Being able to talk to people has stood me in good stead throughout my life. An Army brat, our family moved every year or so. Making conversation was an essential life skill.  In my work as a writer, being able to talk to strangers is crucial. Interviews are the lifeblood of my work. I love hearing people's stories and like to think that people know I'm interested in hearing what they have to say.

Talking, conversation--it's how we get to know each other. It's basic. We let others know what we're thinking when we talk. We also give them a glimpse into who we are. And sometimes that's not a good thing.

The Bible is rife with passages about guarding your tongue. The greatest conversationalist in the world can ruin his reputation by saying something cruel or untrue. Consider this passage from Ecclesiastes10:12-13, "Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him; the beginning of his talking is folly and the end is wicked madness."

Let's break that down. A wise man is gracious, meaning his speech is marked by tact and courtesy. He doesn't say the wrong thing at the wrong time. He thinks carefully about what he says and to whom he's about to say it.

Meanwhile, the fool's words consume him. In modern terms that means what he said just came back to bite him. He embarrassed himself by saying something he shouldn't have. At first people think what he's saying is folly, or stupid, but by the end they think it's just crazy, and not only crazy but hurtful and mean.

I've heard people say, "That's just the way I am." If you're a believer it's not "the way you are." That's the way you were. You are a new creature in Christ, the old things have passed away, behold new things have come (1 Cor. 5:17). Everything, including how we talk to others, must be surrendered to the Lordship of Christ.

In Ephesians 4:29, Paul says that we shouldn't let a single unwholesome word out of our mouths. Unwholesome is defined as "harmful to physical, mental or moral well-being, corrupt, unsound." We are to say only things that edify or build up other people according to the need of the moment.

Suppose, for example, you have a friend who is contemplating committing a sin. She comes to you and tells you what she's thinking. Are you going to tell her why she's the worst person in the world? I hope not. No, you build her up against the sin. You encourage her with words of who she is in Christ (1 Cor. 5:17), talk about past occasions when she relied on God and was blessed by it (Proverbs 3:5-6), you let her know that you believe she is better than the sin she is contemplating acting on (1 John 4:4). In doing so, you give grace-unconditional love of Christ. You give her what Jesus gives you, encouragement, confidence, faith, hope, and love.

Sometimes the need of the moment is just saying, "Love ya!" or "I'm praying for you." Sometimes the need of the moment is telling someone that they look nice or did a fine job.

As I contemplated how to apply Ephesians 4:29 in my own life, I was convicted that in my attempt to be as witty and charming as my Grandpa, I sometimes said things that were not edifying. In fact, I realized that I need to talk a lot less and listen a lot more. I admire women who are comfortable in their own skin. In my experience those women generally listen more than they talk, and when they talk, I'm eager to hear what they will say because they make me feel so good. That's living out Ephesians 4:29 and that's having an impact in the body of Christ.

Lord, help me to speak less, so that my words will mean more. Give me wholesome speech. Let me lift up others in the body with my words and give them grace. Amen

-Patty Rasmussen


Rachael L. Anderson said...

i liked this post. i agree that i can't stand when people talk bad about other people, and then try to justify it by saying "at least i am upfront and honest about things" without realizing they just shouldn't say anything at all.

Kristen Keeling said...

Stephanie- I can't imagine a more perfect description of you. Seriously. You are that kind of woman who holds her tongue & listens with upmost interest and when you comment, I listen. I'm the gabber! Ha!


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