Think about it. When someone says something kind, positive, or encouraging, what effect does that have on you? On the kind of day you are having? A well placed word can make all the difference. Proverbs 16v24 puts it like this:
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Our words can heal, comfort, encourage–they can breathe new life into a person or situation. Words carry with them an incredible potential to do good. But, words can also have the opposite effect.
Words can tear down, wound, discourage–take life away. Have you ever found your day hijacked–like air released from a balloon–by someone’s careless words? Words that caused you to doubt your worth and value? We all have. Proverbs 12v18 says
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Truth be told, we have all been on the giving and receiving end of both kinds of words. We know what is like to speak and receive words that are ‘sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” We also know how to speak and receive words that ‘pierce like swords.’
In Ephesians 4 the writer is talking about what a life that is being transformed by Christ looks like: honest, considerate, forgiving, sensitive to God’s Spirit, hard working. Then, the writer issues this command:
“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.”
Unwholesome in Greek is ‘sapros’ meaning rotten, putrefied, corrupt. It isn’t fit for use.
‘Sapros’ comes from ‘sepo’, from which we get our word septic.
‘Sepo’ means ‘to destroy.’
The writer of Ephesians says to us: “Do not let any septic words come out of your mouths…”
Don’t have a potty mouth.
That goes beyond words like !@#!@$# and *^&##!#%, doesn’t it? This command encompasses all of the ways we use words to tear down and wound others.
This applies to us when we are watching our kids play sports. It’s how we speak to them when they miss the shot, strike out, or drop the pass. It’s how we speak to referees who ALWAYS make bad calls against OUR team…because they always do right?
This applies to how we speak to others at work and home.
This command calls us to examine not only the words we say, but the effect they will have. See, reckless words are words spoken with no real attachment to us, no real thought for what they might do in someone else’s life.
The fact is, our words have power. And with great power [if you’ve seen the first Spiderman movie, you know what comes next] comes great responsibility.
CONFESSION time: This won’t shock many of you, but I am naturally a sarcastic person. Snark comes as involuntarily as breathing. Yet, I am learning more and more that my sarcasm–which is hilarious to me–can and does actually hurt others. I’ve been thinking about giving up sarcasm for Lent this year. Would I have anything left to say?
Do you have a potty mouth?
Are your words damaging or helpful?
Do they build up or tear down?
Do they give life or take life?
May we choose our words carefully.
grace and peace.