Summary: What we say reflects what is inside. What we say also affects what is inside.When we are careless with our words we grieve God. We also transform ourselves. When we are careful about our words we please God, and are transformed to reflect Him better
Ephesians 4:29 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. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Mind Your Language (The King’s Speech)
In today’s news the president of one country was asked what he would say when he met the president of another country in their meeting scheduled next week. He used language that was once reserved for the bar and battlefield-language used in past ages by the outcast and underbelly of civilized society-to express his feelings. The other president, in his only public statement on the subject, was very gracious, and referred to his fellow world leader as “colorful”, but he also canceled the scheduled meeting. I remember when I was a child, and at school I heard many friends using words I had not heard at home. I thought of them as admirable in some way and decided I would try using some of their colorful vocabulary. The first time I tried one of the choice words I felt terrible, like I had done something unconscionable, like stealing, or resituating the furniture of a blind man’s office in order to make him stumble. But the second time I used such language it didn’t feel so bad. By the third of fourth time the feeling of wrong had gone. Such language has become so ubiquitous in film and television, and the school play yard, that many people think of it as mainstream. I think this undiplomatic outburst by a standing president has demonstrated there is still a healthy sensitivity within us that whispers there is wrong in such speech. It is not merely colorful. It is something to be avoided. But Paul isn’t just talking about foul language. He said no corrupt communication.
When I was young a comedian I’d prefer not to name produced a program in which he used what he called the seven words forbidden on television. For this act he became famous, or infamous. Since his time, every comedian seems to feel obligated to shock people into laughter. The problem is that today’s audiences are increasingly difficult to shock. Dirty jokes are so common they are no longer novel. Other forms of corrupt talk might include gossip and talking down about a friend or colleague, or insulting a friend or enemy. All such discussion is exceedingly common. Yet Paul says these are all to be avoided.
Jesus said it is not what goes into a man’s mouth that condemns him, but what comes out, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45; Mathew 12:34). I think there are two aspects of this, one is the inside out, the other is the outside in. What we say reflects what is inside. What we say also affects what is inside. Years ago I was driving in very challenging conditions. The traffic was chaotic and dangerous. I was complaining every few minutes about the drivers who seemed unaware of the risks they were taking and the difficulty they created for me as I attempted to avoid killing them with my car. Someone in the car got tired of my complaints and said so. So I took up a challenge to not complain for 30 minutes. Thirty minutes later I looked at my watch and realized something I found startling. Not only had I succeeded in not complaining for the time. My heart was lighter, and my mind was clearer. Even my perception of the driving conditions had changed. It didn’t seem so bad. Our words are powerful. What we say can actually change us on the inside. Maybe this is why Paul connects a corrupt mouth with grieving the Holy Spirit.
I believe corrupt speech tweaks our hearts. Each time we insult someone or gossip or tell a dirty joke or use off-color speech there is a hardening, or callousing of the heart. The ears become a bit deaf to the voice of God. The eyes become blurry when trying to discern truth from falsehood. The heart becomes less amenable to the flow of the Lifeblood of the Spirit. James said
We stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. . . The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. . . Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. (James 3)