bits from bob....


by Robert J. Young
September 15, 2003
©, 2003, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

"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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." [Ephesians 4:29-32]

Criticism is almost always discouraging. A number of years ago in one of my early ministries, a brother in Christ often asked me, "Would you like a little constructive criticism?" After a few tentative affirmatives from me and several scathing denunciations from him, I learned to respond politely to his question with a firm "No." The trouble with most constructive criticism is that it isn't.

In our text, Paul makes a distinction between words that tear down and words that build up. Unwholesome words are contrasted with words that build up. Criticism generally tears down. When Paul and his companions came to the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, they were invited to speak with these words, "If you have a word of encouragement...." Almost as if to say, if you only have discouraging words, please stay seated and keep them to yourselves.
What kind of speech is appropriate for Christians desiring to follow Jesus? Notice these principles from this text.

1. Will your words benefit those who hear?
Healthy talk builds others up "according to their needs." Healthy talk considers the needs of others, and seeks their benefit and welfare. It is not sufficient justification to say, "Well, it's true." One must also ask, "Will it help?"

2. Will your words grieve the Holy Spirit?
The presence of this verse in this context is interesting. One application is that God's presence within us through his Spirit should help determine what we say. His seal is our guarantee for the day of redemption. Let us speak as redeemed persons.

3. Is your speech motivated by bitterness or malice?
Paul admonishes that evil desires and attitudes be eliminated. There is no place for bitterness, rage, anger, slander, or malice. Words based on such attitudes and emotions are best kept to one's self.

4. Does your speech reflect God's goodness within you?
We are to be kind, compassion, and forgiving. Do our words reflect this commitment?

5. Finally, remember that our speech should reflect the same level of forgiveness that God has extended to us in Jesus Christ. We are to be imitators of God, and live in love, as we follow the example of Jesus.

May God bless us with helpful words as we develop Christ-like hearts!

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Last updated September 15, 2003.