Summary: Christians must be willing to rid themselves of unwholesome speech and use words that will build up other Christians.
It is a rare junior high boy who wants to be in choir. Most would prefer study hall. However, as the story goes, Jared got stuck singing in the choir. That whole year was a laugh. First their teacher, Mrs. Johnson, quit because she couldn’t control the boys. Then, they got a new teacher, Mrs. Clay, who loved kids, but sure didn’t know much about music. At the end of that year, the boys put together a musical and performed it at a nursing home.
A month before the musical, Mrs. Clay approached Jared about singing a solo in the musical. She was having a hard time getting anyone to volunteer for it, and she was desperate. Jared, like any average junior high boy, wasn’t interested. After days of coaxing and telling Jared that he had the best voice in the choir, Jared finally consented even though he felt he had the worst voice in the choir. When he sang the boys laughed, but hey, they laughed at everyone, and Mrs. Clay really seemed to think he had a nice voice.
At the end of the year, Mrs. Clay took another job in another district, and the school hired a new choir teacher, Mr. Egret, who was extremely serious about music. He announced on the first day of school that next week they would be having tryouts for a fall musical. Jared, who was still riding high off Mrs. Clay’s comments, signed-up to audition for the lead role. On the day of the tryouts, there were 150 junior high students in the room for auditions. The new teacher called Jared out first to sing in front of all of his peers. After Jared belted out two lines of music, which he thought were pretty good, the teacher burst out laughing. Jared slowly raised his face at the teacher, while the teacher erupted and said, “You call that singing! Give me a break!” It would be eight years before Jared would ever open his mouth to sing again.
Let me tell you another story. There was once a wealthy tax collector whom no one liked or cared for. He was known for cheating his clients and was not by any means a town favorite. Until one day, his world got turned upside down. He had heard that Jesus of Nazareth was coming to town, so he did his best to get a glimpse of this man that so many had talked about. Yet, because he was so short, he couldn’t see, and because he wanted to see so badly, he decided to climb a tree. He watched Jesus as he was walking through the crowds until he suddenly stopped. And all of a sudden, for some odd reason, Jesus locked eyes directly with the tax collector. And then he spoke. He only spoke two sentences. But they were more than that. They were two sentences that washed away a lifetime of sin and guilt. By the time the second sentence finished, the tax collector’s second life had already begun.
Words have an unbelievable power. They have the power to destroy and the power to bring life.
Our text for today comes from the book of Ephesians, chapter four, verse 29. Paul writes, “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.”
Before we dive into this verse, it will be helpful for us to get some context around what Paul has been talking about. In chapter four, verses 17-19, Paul describes the lifestyle of the old person. In chapter 4:20-24, he talks about having to put off the old person and put on the new person, and in chapter 4:25-32, he gives five exhortations on living a new lifestyle in accordance with being a new person.
In each of the five exhortations with regard to the believer’s conduct, there are three parts: 1) a negative command 2) a positive command 3) the reason for the positive command. Today, we are going examine Paul’s fourth exhortation on living a new lifestyle in accordance with being a new person.
UNWHOLESOME TALK TEARS DOWN:
Let’s look first at the negative command. Paul writes, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.” Paul is trying to emphasize to the Ephesian believers that they are now children of light. Unwholesome talk should not be part of their lifestyle anymore. Paul is probably still thinking about what he wrote in 4:20, “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.” Or perhaps he is thinking about what James had already written, “9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”