“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.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
My husband James and I would talk for hours when we were dating. But it wasn’t just any kind of talk; it was sweet talk. The most common words in our conversation included terms of endearment like Sweetheart, Sweetie, Love and Cutie. We were growing in love, constantly curious and considerate toward each other.
Now we’ve been married more than 21 years. I’ll be honest, we’re not as curious and considerate as we were in the dating days. Perhaps as someone becomes familiar over the years, it’s easy to think we know everything about them.
We can stop trying to learn new things about each other.
We can stop talking sweetly.
And if we’re not careful, the sweet can turn sour.
Our key verse says, “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” (Ephesians 4:29).
When the Apostle Paul cautions against unwholesome words, he uses a Greek term that describes an animal’s decaying body. Conversations that tear down and hurt are deadly and should be avoided by God’s people. These are gross words!
We can filter our words through today’s key verse. I’ve grown to realize I must ask myself, Do the words I speak build up or tear down?
As Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (NIV). This doesn’t mean I talk about rainbows and sunshine all the time. But it does mean if I have something critical to share, it is constructive criticism — sharing words meant to heal, not hurt.
I want to choose words that encourage, exhort and impart grace — “according to their needs.” This entails being aware not only of my own needs, but others’ needs, too. It’s easy to say, “What have you done for me lately?” instead of, “What have I done for you lately?”
The first question is marked by selfishness. The second question is marked by service. I am working toward intentionally asking myself the second question.
Is your conversation with those closest to you marked by kindness or “snideness”? We can yell before thinking, overreact or simmer in silence. The trick is to make ugly words the exception, not the rule. Our words matter to God and to the people we have committed to love.
Do you see a bit of yourself in any of these descriptions? (I do!)
The Complaining Woman — “Janet’s husband always takes her out to nice places. I don’t have anyone to do that for me.”
The Nagging Woman — “I asked you to help me last week, and you haven’t even done anything.”
The Angry Woman — “Why do we always do what you want to do? You never listen to what I want!”
I know I need attitude and word choice adjustments on a regular basis. Following Ephesians 4:29 requires effort — it doesn’t just happen automatically for any of us. It means we’re on guard. It takes thought and energy, but the benefits of close and healthy relationships are totally worth it.
Let’s make plans for some sweet talk with our loved ones today.
Heavenly Father, I don’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit by speaking harshly to others. Forgive me for the things I have said which should have remained unsaid. Help me set a guard over my mouth and for the law of kindness to prevail. Bring a new closeness to my relationships. Thank You for the people You have brought into my life, including my family, husband and friends. Show me how to speak life, building up those around me today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Matthew 12:33-34, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (NIV)
Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (NIV)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
Who do you struggle with speaking to sweetly? Why do you think it’s so difficult? Take a moment to pray for him or her.
The next time you want to say something less than kind, think of Ephesians 4:29, and either be silent, or say something constructive to build them up instead.
Share your thoughts! We’d love to hear from you in our comments section.
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