I had a conversation recently with a friend about words.
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)
How do we know when or what to speak?
A hint appears in this verse: that it might benefit those who listen. Just like we profit from considering whether the food we are about to eat benefits us, we would do well to ask before we speak, “What benefit will come from these words?”
We need to think before we speak.
The bible says, My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… (James 1:19). Right there in the bible, be SLOW TO SPEAK.
Words, unfortunately, can fly out of my mouth. (You too?) This week my husband prepared a Mexican dinner while I was upstairs working. I was summoned to a dinner displayed buffet-style on the kitchen island. As I started to fill my plate, I glanced over at him browning a tortilla in the skillet and said, “That’s burnt.”
The words flew right out of my mouth
I can tell you I was just stating fact, not criticizing. Honest! The words were impulsive. Had I asked myself prior, “What benefit will come from these words?” there would have been none to name. NONE. How else was a tired cook who did all the work supposed to receive such words in the throes of serving dinner? I blew it. Try as I did to say I meant nothing malicious by my words, dinner at the table was not as joyous as it could have been. I deflated the cook.
When the words didn’t fly.
My husband and I go to a favorite antique market once a month to stroll around (and sometimes buy). It’s a good time to talk too. As we were strolling through aisles of fun items last weekend, I was trying to decide if I should tell him something I had heard. I wanted to tell him but I used this question: What benefit will come from sharing this with him? From every angle I considered, there was no benefit. None. So I didn’t say it! I was able to keep the situation to myself because I was slow to speak. Whew!
We humans can justify anything. We are professionals. If we are longing to speak, we can pull out any of the following common statements plus 1000 more to give ourselves permission to say what we want:
- So they can pray (Prayer is a sacred exercise, not a gossip ring)
- This is my husband! I should be able to tell him anything! (Ahem, not.)
- It’s not good for me to hold things in. (True, but tell God.)
- This is bothering me so it must be a sign to let the words out. (Our affections have lots of desires we should not fulfill.)
Here’s the thing. Any item in the above list can be both legitimate or not, depending on the situation. Such decisions are between us and God. I use James 4:17 to guide me: If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. If it doesn’t feel completely okay to say, I don’t say it (or write it).
A second danger
We can think beneficial thoughts and forget to say them! In such instances, the words should fly out of our mouths. Have you ever liked someone’s outfit, or marveled at someone’s smile and kept your thoughts to yourself? Well, then you missed out on building others up according to their needs. The world is a rough place. I have said many times, “If you think something positive, say it.”
Just before the final edit on this post, I went to the grocery store and saw a teen in the produce section using a spray bottle to clean and wipe a tray before laying fresh peaches out for display and sale. I thought, “I am so thankful he is doing his job well.” (I can see the potential for some to just put the peaches on the unwashed tray.) I didn’t tell him! I walked by. When I circled back to look for him, he was gone. I know why it happened. My mind was traveling in several directions that morning. I was not fully present.
I like the phrase in Psalm 45:1: …my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer, which requires that we be in constant connection with our Lord and be fully present with the people in our path. I have prayed that my tongue match such a description, especially this week!
Do you want to pray the same?
Picture Explanation: One of my friends went on a trip overseas and sent me these pictures. She knows that if you don’t climb the mountain, you never get to the top. May none of us shy away from the mountain in front of us. Climb.
There is an online study of One Gritty Blink starting August 10 from 9-11 a.m. Click on the Oaks Ministries link to consider joining.
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