Words as a Means of Grace
Eph. 4:29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
This entire chapter is about living the holy life, one that has left the old life behind. Included in this new life is one in which the tongue is controlled. This is a spiritual discipline for the tongue can be used as a tool for good or for evil and it is one of those instruments which we often simply "let fly." The Ephesians (and we too) are admonished to not let any "evil talk come out of your mouths." The root of the word "evil" here is "corrupt." This should take us back to the fallen state of humanity when the true humanity which God created was corrupted by sin. When sin has the power and influence over your life (and your tongue) then your language is corrupt and evil. This is the exact opposite of what God's intention is for all of humanity so the remainder of the verse tells us what the language of a Christ -follower is to be like. When one has left the corruption of the past behind and is living a life of holiness then there is control on the tongue and the words that come from one's mouth become a means of grace for others. We must recognize that the language from our mouths is not just about what "we" want to say, but about how God can use us as his instrument of prevenient grace as we are transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ in this world. No longer is it about "me" and what I want and what I want to say about and to others, it is about releasing that control of myself to him and then what comes from my mouth should also be an echo of Jesus. Therefore the words from my mouth are purposeful and useful for helping others. I don't tear down my brothers and sisters in Christ, I build them up. In doing so my words become a means of grace to those around me.
Paul often speaks about the weaker brother or sister, the one who can't handle eating meat offered to idols and the adjustment or accommodation the stronger brother or sister must make for them. We apply this to all kinds of behaviors but so often we leave out the tongue! Why is that? It seems that the tongue may be the final thing that we give up to the control of the Holy Spirit. Is it because we want to have the right to say anything we want? But how many times has the tongue been used to hurt or damage the weaker brother or sister!
Why is it that we worry about a young believer being elected to the church board? I have heard people say that they are concerned because they don't want that person to be damaged by the words which will be spoken in that board setting. How sad is that? The persons who are more mature in their journey with the Lord should be at a point where they realize that the words coming from their mouth are to be used as a means of grace, not as an instrument which will corrupt.
This idea of our words being a means of grace is really quite amazing, it makes me stop and think about conversations that we have in a restaurant, on an airplane, or anywhere else that someone may be able to hear what we say. I have to confess that there have been conversations in my past for which I am embarrassed. God has convicted me and now my prayer has been that God will constantly remind me that my conversations are to be a means of grace in this world. Even if someone were eavesdropping on my conversation, my hope and prayer would be that it would be edifying to the person listening in. Might the person in the seat behind me on the plane receive a touch of God's prevenient grace through the conversation I might be having with the person in the seat next to me!
There seem to be two places in which it is difficult for us to continue to have these grace-filled conversations. At home and in the church. Somehow with those who are closest to us we struggle and yet, the world is supposed to be able to look at Christ-followers and know them by their love. Shouldn't we be working the hardest to have grace-filled conversations within the walls of our homes and within the walls of our churches? We must pray that God helps us not to spew out evil or corrupted conversation with those closest to us. In those places and cases, it is incredibly damaging. Instead, may we be consciously aware that our words are to be a means of God's prevenient grace reaching out and being the words of Jesus to believer and non-believer alike.
Lord, please season my conversations with your grace. Amen.