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)
In the third chapter of James, the apostle made several observations about the tongue. Although initially James is speaking of those who teach the word, his essay on the tongue trickles down to all of us. Look at what he says about the tongue: It is a small member of the body, it boasts great things, it is a fire, it is a world of unrighteousness, it can stain the whole body, it sets on fire the entire course of life, it is set on fire by hell, it is not tamable by humans, it is a restless evil, and it is full of deadly poison (James 3:6-8).
I wonder if we have really come to grips with just how evil our tongues can be. James goes on to say, With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:9-10 ESV) He put the nail in the coffin when he said, If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26 ESV)
And if the very verbiage that comes from our mouths isn’t enough to cause us concern, the words of Jesus are even more disconcerting. He said, . . . it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person . . . what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Matthew 15:11, 18-19 ESV) So, what comes out of our mouths condemns us because it comes from our hearts.
Our goal as Christians is to have other people witness of us what was witnessed of Jesus. Luke wrote, And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. (Luke 4:22) That seems to be the point Paul was making when he exhorted the Ephesians to let no corrupt thing come from their mouths, but let everything they say be edifying and gracious to those who hear it.
How we speak to people (not only what we say but how we say it) and how we speak about people can be life changing; for them, for us and for others who hear what we say. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. (Proverbs 18:21 ESV) The words we speak can also grieve or sadden the Holy Spirit who lives in us (Ephesians 4:30).
Paul told the Colossians that we should put away obscene talk from our mouths (Colossians 3:8 ESV). And Peter quoted Psalms 34:12-13 when he wrote, For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” (1 Peter 3:10 ESV)
Do you desire to love life and see good days?
Scriptures for meditation: