James, the brother of Jesus said, “the tongue is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body…With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.” (James 3:6; 9 NIV) James penned those words just short of 2000 years ago and yet the truth of his words are evident in our everyday life…EVERY DAY! Children come home from school crying because of what others have said, teenagers are crushed because of words spewed on social media sites that marginalize and malign them, and adults use words like a surgeon uses a scalpel to get back at their husband, wife, children, co-workers, and neighbors. Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me” was either naïve or trying to convince himself from the hurtful words of others.
We can’t stop others from lobbing grenades of hurtful words in our direction, but we can sure resolve within ourselves to use our words to bless, comfort, encourage, and heal those around us. You with me? Are you willing to sign up? Ok, here’s how we do it. We make Ephesians 4:29 the driving, guiding force for how we relate to those around us.
There are two aspects to this new way, this Christ-like way, of using words. First, Paul said, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…” Jesus is the only person outside of Paul to use the word, “?????? ” (sapros), the word translated, “unwholesome,” or “corrupt” or “evil” as it is translated in some other Bible translations.” The word literally means, “rotten, putrefied, or unfit for us.” That’s a pretty good description of much of the talk in our day isn’t it? We are not to speak in this way. Never.
We are not to speak words that tear others down, words that damage and diminish, words that are callously spoken with no regard as to how they will affect others. Instead, we are to speak “…only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Those who are “in Christ” are all about construction not demolition. The phrase, “building others up” is interesting, but it is best explained by hearing how Paul used the word when he wrote to the folks in Corinth. He said, “…everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening.” (2 Corinthians 12:19 NIV) Let’s put our hard hats on and go to work in building others up by speaking words of hope, encouragement, and healing today.