Speech is a Gift and it has Power…

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29 [ESV]

Speech can tear people down and it can build people up. Paul is saying that not only can it build people up but it can also be beneficial. The term sapros (unwholesome, corrupting) means putrid, rancid, or rotten, decaying. There are references to this same word in Matthew 12:33 and 13:48. The “Let no…” of this verse is a present imperative that points to stopping and not allowing to continue. This is what might be referred to as speech that has a seriously foul smell (a stench). It is that kind of speech that when you hear it said by someone toward another person, makes you cringe, and it may even induce laughter in the sheer audacity of the words. We are all capable of this kind of speech and I think that Paul is very close to saying that it is EVIL.

This kind of speech is the heartless tearing down of a person by belittling or shoving in the cutting dagger of words and then twisting and pulling up to induce the most pain and damage possible. A worldly example of this is ‘roasting’. This is something Paul is exhorting us not to participate in… conversely, he is saying to use the gift of speech we have been given to build people up and encourage them.

This verse and the one before it (do not steal but give in generosity) kind of go hand in hand. They are both geared towards the edification and strengthening of others in our biblical community.


I am literally pausing here on the couch tonight reflecting on the most recent memories of whether I have done this or not. What I am arriving at is ‘maybe’. With my closest friends and family, I known for a dry humor style. I am trying to come up with an example, but I am just not pulling one from my brain at the moment. However, its not really the point. I need to be careful — that dry style can lead to joking around that is not necessarily demeaning, but also not uplifting. I need to be more careful with risking a tearing down potential in the pursuit of laughter and ‘making a funny’. I do try and offer encouragement every chance I get but even here I could do better. I pray that the Holy Spirit would give me a heart of discernment in seeing people and situations where my brothers and sisters in Christ need a good building up word that inspires them to do more.

Today’s Psalm:

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.

Psalms 37:30-31 [ESV]

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