May my Words be Gracious
By Debbie Christopher...In my previous blog post, I set out to discuss the meme “Lord, please keep one hand on my shoulder and the other one over my mouth.” The theme of this previous post moved from emphasizing our words to others to emphasizing our words to God in prayer. I stated that we would move to a discussion of our words to others in an upcoming post. So, this week we will look at two New Testament passages that discuss the importance of guarding the words we speak to others as seen in the above meme.
Ephesians 4:29 and Colossians 4:6 are two verses that teach this all-important concept. Numerous commentaries point out that guarding our words to others is a foundational principle for godly living.
Let’s take a couple of minutes to dig into Ephesians 4:29 which correlates so nicely with Colossians 4:6 seen in the image above.
According to the Holman Bible Commentary, Paul often used a three-fold pattern of instruction for the first-generation believers in the early church. He often presented a negative command, a positive command, and the foundational principle based on the two commands…with a ‘so that’ phrase. We see a clear example of this pattern in Ephesians 4:29.
“No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.”
Ephesians 4:29 HCSB
• Paul instructed the new believers in the church in Ephesus regarding godly, gracious speech in 4:29 by beginning with the negative command, “Let no corrupt (foul) communication proceed out of your mouth”. The Greek word used here means ‘rotten’ and refers to spoiled fruit (Bible Knowledge Commentary). Basically, Paul (under God’s guidance) was instructing them to refrain from using rotten language that 'smells' like spoiled fruit! Definitely a negative thought.
• Paul moved on to the positive command with the all-important article, but. He admonished them ---and by extension, us---to, instead, use their words to build up and encourage when needed and/or as necessary. It is interesting to note that this positive instruction does not just refer to WHAT is said, but includes WHEN we should speak. The Bible Knowledge Commentary emphasizes that our words must be beneficial and timely in nature.
• Paul concluded this particular verse (specific principle—our words to others) with the phrase 'so that’. These two words have become one of my favorite phrases in the New Testament epistles (letters). Whenever I come across this phrase in my Bible reading, I always go back and see what I should be doing-- so that,..’Here, the foundational principle regarding words we speak to others is based on the positive command above. The underlying purpose of using beneficial, encouraging language rather than spewing rotten, corrupt language is 'so that' they---we---may impart grace to the hearer. Gracious speech…Speech seasoned with kindness*…Paul was instructing the first-generation believers to adjust their speech so that it was gracious, kind, and beneficial. Wiersbe summarizes this ‘so that’ principle perfectly, “Our words should minister grace and help draw others to Christ.” (Wiersbe Bible Commentary, page 611).
Asking God to keep one hand over our mouth goes beyond keeping us from saying ‘bad’ things. We must also be on guard to make sure we don’t say anything that is not beneficial or kind. We need to regularly pray that our words not come across as rotten fruit, but as a basket full of nutrition so that others may see (hear!) Christ in our speech.
As seen in our photo above, Colossians 4:6 also speaks of the importance of gracious speech…seasoned just right!
Adding a more specific thought to this, consider the following as we ask God to guard our speech. Friends, even if it is necessary to rebuke a fellow believer, let’s choose our words carefully and use them for grace and restoration, not to beat down.
Here's a great summary from the Bible Knowledge Commentary:
“…one’s words are to be true and pure and are also to contribute to benefiting others” (BKC-page 637)
Let’s speak graciously!
Roy B. Zuck and John F. Walvoord editors, The Bible Knowledge Commentary NT. Colorado Springs: Cook Communication Ministries. 2004.
E. Ray Clendenen and Jeremy Royal Howard,
editors, Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary, Nashville: B & H Publishing Group. 2015.
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Colorado Springs: David C. Cook. 2007.
*Thank you, Greg Christopher, PhD for your faithful assistance with Greek studies.