As a kid, mom occasionally retrieved the bar of soap, directing us to stick out our tongues while she proceeded to wash our mouths out with it. It was usually the result of some form of backtalk or just totally "naughty" words we were not supposed to be saying. Lest you think it is time to call the authorities on my mom, let me assure you a little Ivory soap in the mouth doesn't kill the child! I made it all these years and never suffered anything but a little bitter taste to remind me the words I choose to use actually do matter. Definitely, without a doubt, curse words were forbidden. We just didn't say them. Yet there were other types of words just as damaging - like disrespectful words said in anger against an authority in our lives. I daresay there are times when our words are less than desirable - kind of like greasy dishwater in the kitchen sink. You could get by with them, but they don't leave you feeling very clean - they leave a "film" of some sorts you just cannot get past!
Stop all your dirty talk. Say the right thing at the right time and help others by what you say. (Ephesians 4:29 CEV)
Paul instructs the Ephesian church to "stop all their dirty talk". I don't think these believers were going around cursing and using obscenities as freely as they were using "praise God" and "Hallelujah", but who knows. Really, what he was saying can be better understood if we look at this verse in the Amplified Bible: Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it. Our list of the kind of words we speak begins to be a little clearer, doesn't it? Let's break it down a little:
- No foul or polluting language. I think this may actually encompass those curse words and obscenities we can hear bantered around by most sailors. It also encompasses those times when our speech is just grossly offensive. In fact, these types of words might be what actually is pictured when we say something is fouled up within a circumstance. The words actually create a "dam" effect and keep welled up the negative stuff within. So, in time these words actually cause this decaying process which leads to further words becoming even more polluting in nature. I can definitely see why he starts with these!
- No evil word, unwholesome or worthless talk. If I were to say the meal was not "fit" to eat because it was spoiled or just a whole lot of bad choices, this is probably what is being referred to here. These words are actually unhealthy for us - they get us going in the wrong direction. They are "good for nothing" kind of words. Now, how might this manifest in our daily conversation? It could be we just speak a whole lot of words which actually "clog the arteries" of our relationships, or that we just spend time saying a whole lot of stuff with little to no value, wasting both our own time and that of those who have to listen to us!
- Speech which is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others. Now we are at the kind of speech we should be endeavoring to embrace. Good and beneficial - this is definitely not the case with the types of words referred to above. Beneficial words have at their basis the idea of being "helpful" - there is some advantage to them being spoken or written. So, this type of speech is actually helping another to grow in grace, and moving them toward a deeper relationship with Christ and others. We might think of these words as encouragement, exhortation, and maybe even a little counsel.
- Words fitting to the need and the occasion. These are words spoken "in season" and with the right perspective. There are definitely times when it is better to remain silent than to bring up something, right? The timing is wrong. When we consider these types of words, we are really saying we will bring our speech into alignment with the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives and allow our speech to be directed by him. When we do this, we find our timing is spot on and our perspective is clearer in the matter.
- Words which are are a blessing and bring grace. The final reminder is to allow our speech to be a comfort or encouragement to another. It is the type of speech which considers the needs of another over their own and allows their words to be continuously be bathed in grace. In this type of exchange, we find "favor" being brought into the relationship. These types of words actually help to grow us together.
So, in considering our words today, let us keep in mind the overarching idea of saying the right thing at the right time in the right manner. If we do this, we will avoid many a calamity within relationship we would have done well to avoid! Just sayin!