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
Public discourse today seems noxious, crude, and downright vicious. It’s inane and profane. Four-letter words pepper the utterances of school girls. TV shows feature more beeps than words. Political figures swear for effect. It’s a real sewer if you listen closely, and if you add in all the Tweets, it’s very clear that there’s no semblance of goodness in many hearts.
In the old days manners and morays filtered public discourse, but no more. Vitriol is spewing everywhere! Worse, avowed Christians choose to pepper their speech with a few choice words here and there to appear cool, or to fit in. These believers were Paul’s target audience.
You’ll never change the speech of the lost until their hearts are changed, so you must wade through the cesspool to engage with them. But Christians, our speech should stand in stark contrast to the world. We have a powerful grid within us to know what and when to say it. Besides, our hearts should not be generating evil but good, and it should be easy!
We should know that our God is exacting. He doesn’t want us on the fringe, pushing limits. That’s why we have this word of exhortation. He wants our words clean, becoming, and most of all, full of grace. How in the world will the world know who we are if we talk like them? At least in this day and age, wholesome speech will be a dramatic departure to what we hear standing in line, or at a football game.
Paul says don’t be continually letting rotten words come out of your mouth. Let your words be few. Say only what’s uplifting. Say what gives grace to those who hear, what’s timely and appropriate.
Try studying the Lord’s words and manner of speaking. He was inquisitive, observant, kind, polite, measured, articulate, charming, emphatic, thoughtful and engaging. When he did lash out in righteous anger he used the illustrative power of his language to make his point; “you brood of vipers, you whitewashed tombs!”
My solution has always been to use the richness of the English language to express myself. And if you throw in all our wonderful figures of speech, some metaphors, a well-told story, and some colloquial sayings, you’ll come across as intriguing, interesting and compelling.
On the other hand, vulgar utterances are for the lazy, snide remarks for the jealous, and caustic criticism for the bitter.
My pastor is fond of saying, “What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket!” If Jesus is down there, what we say and how we say it should reflect him without exception.