No Unwholesome Word
I was at a wedding last Saturday and enjoying conversation with a circle of good friends. Similar circles filled the large pole barn venue till the volume of the collective talking and laughing was full and beautiful. A guy in our circle was regaling us with a thrilling tale from a recent excursion he’d taken and had just reached the high point when the emcee stepped to the microphone to quiet everyone down. Unfortunately, he did not notice the emcee’s call to attention and suddenly found himself telling his story at full volume, not only to us, but to a room full of quiet people. Ever been there? I sure have. I can even feel the color of embarrassment rising to my cheeks.
The collective volume of talk in our country has been rising sharply for some time now, and not only is the volume high, but the tone is increasingly sharp. For better or worse (often worse), a large portion of this ‘talk’ happens via social media. Skilled wordsmiths of all worldviews deftly wield their keyboards to shred opposing views and chop opponents down to size. Those less skilled with words use pictures to create memes highlighting how smart our team is, and how stupid are the others. One post prompts another, and the corrosive communication continues to rise till the air begins to resemble the toxic smog over Delhi.
God spoke a word to me while I was on vacation that cut like a beam of light through the foul air: “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) What a word for God’s people today! My grief is not that the world’s talk is so ugly; that is to be expected. I am dismayed that so many of the people of Jesus are turning on their flamethrowers and joining right in. Friends, hear this word of the Lord!
This is the moment when the kids are all bickering and then dad walks into the room. It is the time to be silent, gulp, and listen well to what he says. Our Father commands us to weigh our words carefully … all of them. Our interactions at home, our chit chat with co-workers, our admonitions to our kids, our comments to fellow drivers on the road, all our words are to be helpful, timely and filled with grace. This does not mean we never address wrongs, but that we do so aiming to be an instrument of God’s grace those who hear.
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15–16) The darker things get in this world, the more important our words become. So before you say your piece in the circle, or hit ‘send’ on your keyboard, check it past Jesus and pray, “Do you think this will be helpful?”