Perhaps you have heard the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That may sound cute but it’s not true. Words do hurt. Proverbs 12:18 says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” As followers of Christ, we should seek to bring healing and not hurt with our speech.
The Apostle Paul tells us –
“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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:29-32)
It is interesting to note that nestled in the middle of this passage of scripture is this admonition – “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” Anyone who has ever experienced grief knows how painful it can be. If we keep this statement within the context of Paul’s usage, we see that one of the things that can cause the Holy Spirit pain is for us to use our words in such a way that will tear others down, rather than build them up.
“But that’s just the way I am”, some will say. “I tell people what I think.” Perhaps we need to pause and ask ourselves – ‘Although speaking our mind may be who we are, is it who God wants us to be?’
Paul tells us – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs…” The term ‘unwholesome’ can refer to speech that is either corrupt or speech that is useless. We all recognize the sinfulness of corrupt speech such as curse words; yet do we also recognize the sinfulness of speech that is unkind and unnecessary? According to Paul, any form of speech that is not for the purpose of building others up and bringing them closer to Christ should be avoided.
I leave you today with a verse of scripture that I often try to pray –
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)