“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:29-30
Often times with youth comes naiveté. Little thought of consequence increases the popularity of the expression, “YOLO” (you only live once), and instead of believing that this means living life to the fullest every day, the pursuit has become one of trying to justify the crazy things done. Because “you only live once”, right? The caution to heed in this is that when there is little thought to the cost of our actions, there is a tendency towards increased immoral living.
The first instruction we are given in our passage today has to do with the tongue and what we allow to pass over our lips. The word “corrupting” used here in verse 29 literally means unwholesome, and it refers to that which is foul or rotten. Both of those words induce a memory in my sense of smell. I live in a neighborhood where our trash is picked up once a week. Being that it is only my husband and I accumulating trash in our home, a once a week pick up is typically more than enough. The problem arose one summer when we missed our pick-up date…two weeks in a row. For those of you who don’t know, I live in Arizona, also known as the land of the unrelenting sun. It’s more than just hot here during the summer months, and in the kind of heat we have here, it takes a matter of minutes for garbage to start producing a very foul odor. This garbage had been sitting in our can outside for three weeks, baking in temperatures that were well over 100 degrees. “Foul” or “rotten” hardly describe the smells that were coming from that can when we finally hauled it out to the curb. Because the can sits outside, we had the luxury of rarely needing to deal with the smell. So, it festered. Then, we stepped outside, and the assault of the smell alone was more consequence than we would ever need to learn our lesson, once and for all.
This is the picture Paul is trying to paint in our minds when it comes to our speech. Any corrupting or unwholesome talk that comes out of our mouths spoils everyone within earshot and has the capacity to rot the hearts and the minds of the hearers. Gossip, slander, foul language, murmuring and complaining, fits of rage…they all corrupt and are unwholesome, completely unfitting speech for the child of God. As yeast spreads through the dough and cannot be removed once it has been added, so are our words. Once our thoughts have materialized into words, they can never be taken back. They either bless or curse. They either give life or produce death. They either build up or tear down. As believers who represent Jesus Christ, our speech should be instructive, encouraging, and uplifting…always. There is a high cost for our destructive speech. When we allow our mouths to run faster than our feet, there is a price to be paid.
Ephesians 4:30 does more than hint at the cost of our destructive speech. It lays it out clearly for all to see. Are you ready for this?
Our destructive speech grieves the Holy Spirit of God.
I want you to take a moment right now to reflect on the last time you grieved. When was the last time that your heart ached, your shoulders shook with sobs, your tears endlessly streamed? Grief is a strong word. Mental suffering or distress is something that many of us would rather avoid in life if we could. Know this: when we as the redeemed refuse to change our old ways of sin that characterized our lives before Christ, including our speech, the heart of God grieves. Our speech should be significantly different than it was prior to us meeting Jesus at the foot of His cross. Is gossip an easy and natural default for you? Are you quick to speak but slow to listen? Are your words charged with malice and anger? When you’re upset or angry, does foul language readily flow from your lips?
As much as we might prefer to minimize this area of sin, God certainly does not. If our speech can grieve the heart of God, it should also grieve our own hearts. The cost is too high for us to willfully continue down this destructive path. Not only do our words injure those who hear them, but more importantly, our words grieve God. Let this be more than enough reason to “let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths.” Choose to bless with your words instead. Choose to give grace with your speech. Choose to live a life that not only is consistent with your calling to new life, but one that pleases the Holy Spirit of God.