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Speaking with Grace

August 17, 2012

“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” – James 3:5

I’m not sure why the Lord laid this particular matter on my heart, but lay it on my heart He did; so I can only be obedient to His will. You know, it’s kind of odd when you think about the power that words have: the right ones can uplift a soul when bowed down by all-consuming despair…just like the wrong ones can shatter someone’s spirit, damaging it so completely that the pain of one single negative comment can linger on for years.

Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, tells us to “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Eph. 4:29) Yet, what does he mean by ‘corrupt’? It does not only refer to cursing, lies or deceitfulness, but to corruption: the definition of which is ‘moral perversion’, ‘depravity’, or ‘lack of integrity’…in short, Paul is telling us not to say anything that is contrary to the serving of God – or that teaches or helps another to do so. Because realistically, anything – even the truth – spoken in the wrong way, can do far more harm than good.

“But speaking the truth in love,” (Eph. 4:15). Why stress that? Well, I had a friend once that ‘always told the truth’; he just ‘always’ used it as a battering ram, as well: to humiliate, degrade, and belittle those around him by hammering at their faults, flaws, and insecurities. And I ask: what good was the truth, then, if you only use it to abuse others? After all, the truth can be hard-edged enough without adding the sharpness of vindictiveness to it. Now, don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying to lie or even soften the truth…I’m just saying that whatever we might say should serve constructive, selfless purpose; not destructive and self-serving. Because we are told to “Let your speech be always with grace,” (Col. 4:6)….and grace is called grace for a reason; it’s not deliberately spiteful or unnecessarily harsh – its compassionate, forgiving, and based in love. So, why do we say the things we say? Is it to serve God? Is it to uplift, minister to, or instruct another? Because if it isn’t, than we are basically told to keep our mouths shut. Period.

Look at these two verses: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice,” (Eph. 4:31)…and, “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.” (Col. 3:8). And these are just a few of several very similar verses. So, why does Paul stress this subject? Because death and life are in the power of the tongue, of course…and because words can cause far more damage than we might have ever intended – if we intended any at all in the first place. And because we can, if we are not diligent, and careful, and graceful, cause dissension and bitterness. We must mind our tongues and what we say, for there are also those who would take any opportunity presented to them to purposefully cause strife and angst. So, it seems that it’s probably just best not to say anything negative at all, doesn’t it? These are the reasons why, I believe, that Paul was so emphatic. If we are not careful, or allow ourselves to speak in such ways, than we can become those very people – the backbiters and slanderers and gossipmongers; and those people, we are told, are an abomination in the eyes of God.

“These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” – (Prov. 6:16-19). Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m certain that I do not want to be an abomination. So, I say that perhaps we should all take care of what we say and how we say it – and to what purpose we are saying it for. Let us speak with grace, and not corruption, so that we might uplift, minister, and edify each other; and especially, let our speech exalt the One who made us capable of it. After all, if we are meant to serve God, then our tongues were meant to praise Him. I’m certain that we’ll be doing a lot of that in Heaven – and a mouth that was used for lying, cursing, gossip, slander, abuse, and degradation on earth would be pretty out of place in that choir, wouldn’t you say?

So, today, remember to use “Sound speech that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” (Titus 2:8). Let our speech and our words be above reproach, and let our mouths be clean enough to sing praises to our Father in Heaven.

And, of course: “Speak not evil one of another, brethren.” (James 4:11)

Be blessed,

Joshua

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