Use Words That Grow, Not Decay
“Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29)
As a team of pastors and I were going through these passages in preparation for the sermon series these idea ended up in, it became immediately clear that some people might object to me discussing this particular passage. I swear and I’m not afraid to admit it.
“But Pastor Shane, Paul says not to swear!” Sorry, but no that’s not what he’s saying. Not exactly. Let me try to explain the subtly of what’s going on in this passage.
Paul’s concern is that, just like lying and taking advantage of people, Christians in Ephesus are using things like slander, gossip, backbiting, and maybe even swear words to hurt people. They are tearing apart the body by doing damage with their words. Those words are being directed at people. Here, we see proof that Christians have weaponized words since the beginning. Paul is telling them not to do that.
Honestly, its less about the words than it is about the intent of the words used. I don’t ever have to utter one socially unacceptable swear word to tear a person down. I would much rather hear my 5-year old say the queen mother of dirty words – the F— word – than to ever hear him call a person ugly. Saying the F word isn’t a weapon unless it is directed at someone but saying someone is ugly whether to their face or behind their back only has one purpose…to tear that person down.
“Instead, only offer fresh words that build others up when they need it most.”
Whatever the actual words we use, Paul’s point here that the heart behind them should be to build others up. Make them feel better, help them grow, reveal truth to them, express love to them, console in times of weariness, put their needs first, and speak softly and kindly to them.
We cannot possibly trust each other if we are afraid that the words of our closest allies will be used as weapons to destroy us.