"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week 26: Rotten, Unwholesome Talk

The command for last week was Ephesians 4:29.

"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." (NIV)

"Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps; each word a gift."
(The Message)

"No rotten talk should come from your mouth, but only what is good for the building up of someone in need, in order to give grace to those who hear."
(Holman Christian Standard)

The goal was to watch the way I talked and to not say anything rotten or unwholesome, but to say only helpful encouraging things. As usual, the result was a mix of success and failure. As I paid closer attention to my speech, I realized that some things I say, at work and at home, are just plain mean. At the office, cutting humor and sarcasm are widespread. In fact, it's the predominant way that co-workers talk to each other. Have you ever noticed how much humor is based on tearing others down? Or, how much mean-spirited talk is passed off as humor? I'm as guilty as anyone of engaging in it.

At home, I speak too harshly to my boys. I've recently started the nasty habit of telling the boys to "shut-up." It usually happens like this. I've asked one of them to do something simple. "Son, go wash your hands for supper." The boy proceeds to tell me that he hasn't had enough time to play or that he doesn't want any supper or that he just washed his hands yesterday. "Son, SHUT-UP, and go wash your hands!" When I say it, there's no affection, good will, or grace in it. It comes from a place of frustration, anger and pride. I just want to be obeyed, and now. It offends my pride that a seven-year old, or a four-year old argues with me. So, just "shut-up" and do what I asked. All very normal for parents. And, sinful.

The Bible calls us to look at our language in a new way. We're commanded to make our speech a means of grace and encouragement. In other words, it's not Christian to just stop saying mean, nasty, dirty things. The mark of a Christian is someone who says grace-filled encouraging things. I learned in weeks twenty-four and twenty-five that the best way to get rid of complaining speech is to replace it with thanksgiving. Likewise, Paul tells us in Ephesians that the way to get rid of any type of unwholesome speech is to replace it with grace-filled, encouraging speech.

How can we succeed in transforming our speech? Ultimately, it is a work of God in us. Our words are the overflow of our hearts. A Christian indwelled by the Holy Spirit is cleansed from the inside out, and God's work of sanctification in our hearts will bear fruit in our lives and speech. On the other hand, we're not excused from working cooperatively with the Spirit as we're in process. In our speech as in all areas of our lives, we are called to work out our salvation. It's not just that our hearts direct our speech. Our speech also directs our hearts, like a ship's rudder or the bit in a horse's mouth. See James 3:3-6. It's what comes out our mouths that makes us unclean. Matthew 15:11. I'm praying that God would uproot anger and mean-spiritedness from my heart and that the fruit of the Spirit (kindness, goodness, gentleness) would overflow. I'm also resolving to work at replacing my rotten, unwholesome talk with grace-filled encouraging speech.

1 comment:

  1. AMEN!! Love your Blog and openness to share from the heart of man as well as the Word of God.