Don’t say nothing at all
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. – Ephesians 4:29
5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.
6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
Generations of Americans have enjoyed and loved Walt Disney’s animated film Bambi. It was released during World War II. Its world premiere was in London on August 9, 1942. It was released in the United States on August 13 of the same year. It has been a perennial favorite for decades and touches the hearts of millions of children and those who are children at heart. It was nominated for 3 Academy Awards. All the characters were animals. The animation and drawings required were tedious and time-consuming. But the results were delightful and amazing. Walt Disney commented to the artists, “Fellows, this stuff is pure gold.” It is regarded as one of Walt Disney’s most charming films. It was re-released in theaters in 1942, 1947, 1957, 1966, 1975, 1982, and 1988 and released on video in 1989 and 1997.
One of its most enduring lines is spoken by Thumper when he was a young bunny. When Thumper sees Bambi, “He says he doesn’t walk very good, does he?” His mother asks, “Thumper, what did your father tell you this morning?” He replies, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pi8f9g8-Wpc).
Who among us has not heard the grammatically corrected version, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
For children of the King, Thumper’s advice sums up in one sentence our instructions on how to treat and speak to others.
Ephesians 4:29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
Rather than projecting superiority, self-righteousness, or censorious criticism, we are to show love and respect to others. Our words are to be gracious, attractive and focused on the needs of others. We are to seize every opportunity to allow the Lord Jesus Christ to live out His life through us in service to others. When the Lord Jesus Christ is lifted up and reigns in our hearts, He is extremely beautiful and affable. Many will be drawn to Him because of our words and actions.
“Christians must commend their message with the charm and the wit which were in Jesus himself. There is too much of the Christianity that stodgily depresses people and too little of the Christianity which sparkles with life” (Barclay).
This is also “a warning not to confuse loyal godliness with graceless insipidity” (C. F. D. Moule).
REFLECT & PRAY
“Give me a hundred men who fear nothing but God, and who hate nothing but sin, and who know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified, and I will shake the world” (John Wesley).
Father strengthen and encourage me to allow the Lord Jesus Christ to reign in my heart so that my attitudes and speech become not only gracious but also full of grace that imparts kindness and love to others according to their needs.
Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
Our words should be, at minimum, attractive, pleasant, and charming. “People should always be pleased and interested in what you say” or “what you say should always cause people to be pleased and interested” (UBS). But peeling back the layers, the Greek phrase translated as gracious and attractive is en chariti. The phrase en chariti goes beyond merely being gracious and charming. Our speech should always be “full of grace” (Moo). Children of the King represent the King. We are to speak graciously and kindly to others and offer unmerited divine grace.
Paul elaborates further.
Ephesians 4:29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
The Greek word translated as corrupting talk, corrupt communication, foul or abusive language, evil speech, harmful words, or unwholesome words is sapros. Sapros is a nasty and hideous term that essentially refers to foul, putrid, decaying, or rotten things. Thus it has the sense of something which is not merely worthless but harmful. Practically speaking, rotten words produce rot, or corrupt words create corruption. Worse yet, it is not merely the words we use but the underlying message we convey.
The real meaning of sapros is observed in what Paul contrasts it to. Paul exhorts the children of the King to speak beneficial, encouraging words that build others up.
Children of the King have a stark choice every time we open our mouths. We can either benefit others or corrupt them. What are we to do? Through Paul, the Father’s intention is made crystal clear. We are to provide what is needed to build others up. Our language should be appropriate to the needs of others. “The Christian should be characterized by words which help others” (Barclay).
Rotten and harmful words are analogous to sepsis in the human body. An out-of-control infection causes it. Left unchecked, sepsis frequently becomes a life-threatening medical emergency. It often leads to death. When we speak rotten, corrupt words, we create a life-threatening spiritual emergency within the soul and spirit of those who hear. In other words, we are poisoning them.
What kind of speech is ruled out? Coarse, ugly, filthy, rotten, corrupt cursing and scathing, demeaning criticism and gossip.
The Father has set the bar exceedingly high for each child of the King.
But there’s more!
Ephesians 4:30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by how you live. Remember, he has identified you as His own . . ..
Notice that Ephesians 4:30 begins with the word and. This indicates that the sentence is not a new and separate notion but rather continues a previous thought. What thought is that? The answer is hiding in plain sight, but strangely, rarely recognized. The apostle Paul is tying together two imperative thoughts (commands) with this and.
What’s the point?
When we speak unwholesome words, it has an impact on the Holy Spirit of God. We cause Him grief and sorrow. The Greek word translated as grief is lupeo. Lupeo connotes causing another emotional pain, sadness, sorrow, distress, or unhappiness. This reveals that the Holy Spirit is sensitive and has real emotions just like people. He can be grieved and saddened.
Thus, “unwholesome words are forbidden for two reasons: first, they impede spiritual growth of fellow believers; second, they grieve the Holy Spirit. . .. [Children of the King] are warned against the use of worthless words because they not only hurt the body of Christ but also grieve the Holy Spirit (Hoehner).
The implication is grievous and should stop any child of the King dead in their tracks.
“An offense against a fellow believer is an offense against the Holy Spirit” (UBS). When we speak hurtful words to others, we are actually speaking hurtful words to the Holy Spirit. Take a moment and envision tears in the Father’s eyes.
By my words, I cause the One that I love the most sorrow and pain. Oh wretched man that I am! Who will save me from the body of the death? (Romans 7:24).
© Dr. H 2022