“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4.29).
I don’t know about your home but our three kids fight. A lot. One minute they are laughing and playing. The next minute they are fighting, snatching and calling one another names. Like their father, they are quick to tear down, demean, disgrace and criticize.
Rather than incessantly demanding they “Stop!” and “Be nice to each other!” we decided to try something that might actually work: Bible. We might succeed in altering their behavior for fifteen minutes, but God uses Scripture to transform their hearts forever. So we memorized Ephesians 4.29 together to bring it to bear on conversations and arguments as they arise. Christians are those who are slow to anger and quick with grace. Ironically, they now fight over who will recite the verse first! Oy-vey.
There is a measure of wisdom in not saying anything if you cannot say anything good or helpful. Our tongues often do need restraining like a horse needs a rage-stopping bridle (Jas 3.1-12). Growing in the gospel, however, is to unleash the tongue in edifying grace. Having tamed the fleshly outburst, the Christian becomes a fountain of life-giving, grace-seasoned water.
“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col 4.6).
The Christian shouldn’t say what he really wants to say until what he wants to say is what should be said.
Words like “edification” and “grace” can become so familiar they become meaningless. We can talk much about them as concepts without ever pressing them into “the need of the moment.” What then are these grace-ripe moments where our mouths become Christ’s means of edification? We hope to work out these moments specifically in our family, a family that needs far less lip and far more edification. Perhaps you might benefit from and/or add to our working list:
• Apply Eph 4.29 at the hospital hospital by thanking nurses/staff for their dignity-supplying help instead of demanding of & complaining to them. They provide full-time services the rest of us recoil at doing for a few minutes. They do their best to help our loved ones at their worst.
• Apply Eph 4.29 at church by blessing others with Christ’s peace during the greeting time instead of quick, superficial, lifeless words. The “passing of the peace” has long been a part of the church’s liturgical tradition. In our microwave worship culture, however, that tradition has been de-graced with the “greeting time” where we rush through superficial, lifeless handshakes. Replace the worldly generic “Good morning, nice to see you” with the Church’s specific “Christ’s peace to you.” Christians don’t merely greet one another; they bless one another.
• Apply Eph 4.29 at church by actually praying right then and there with the person for whom you’ve promised to pray.
• Apply Eph 4.29 at a restaurant by treating your server like a real human being. Look them in the eye. Ask how they are doing and even how you might pray for them. If it’s their first day then just eat the wrong side they brought rather than send it back in a huff. Make sure they are free to wait on that table of grumpy people before yours. Tip them well. Very well, for Christ’s sake.
• Apply Eph 4.29 at work by greeting your boss before he/she greets you. Speak well of him/her and to him/her even (or especially) if you consider him/her unworthy of it (1 Pt 2.18-19).
• Apply Eph 4.29 at home by emphasizing what each other has done well before and much more than what we’ve not done well (okay, this one is just for me). Otherwise, our children get the idea God is angrily tapping his foot just waiting for another opportunity to pounce on us.
• Apply Eph 4.29 at the grocery store by treating the checkout gal like a real person rather than a glorified scanner with arms. Most of them cannot wait to clock out or quit, so they could use some grace while they’re weighing your bananas.
I hope our list grows and grows and grows. And we along with it.
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way (Jas 3.8-10).