“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.” Ephesians 4 v 29
Tony Campolo famously is said to have begun speeches to Christian audiences with this opening: “First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a s—. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said s— than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”
The word ‘unwholesome’ is the translation of a word which means rotten, decaying and literally ‘putrid’.
The Apostle says ‘Put off your rotten talk.’
Ever since I can remember swearing was a sin. That’s all well and good if you remain in the same nation and in the same culture. But what happens if you move out of that and use the same acceptable word? A Britain going to America or vice versa will soon realise that words mean different things!
The unacceptable language when I was growing up is acceptable today.
Let’s go further back.
In 1866 a famous French poet, Charles Baudelaire was being tended by nuns after having a stroke. All he could say was the word ‘damn’. Today if someone said that word we wouldn’t do what the nuns did and after several ‘damns’ said this proved he was satanically possessed and had him kicked out!
So it cannot be just the words that are putrid. Though at any one given time in the culture we find ourselves certain words are rotten.
Paul clearly says in the whole verse which we will get to tomorrow. Put off and put on.
You may pride yourself on never swearing. That’s not good enough.
Even if you have switched the word to a more gentler word and use it to bring someone down then it is unwholesome talk.
Examine your words today. How much is criticism? How much belittles? What about the way you say things? The tone?
This week a leader recalled their deep hurt to me when they approached a National Christian leader many years ago with his friend simply to say hello. This leader was so proud of his friend and was looking forward to introduce him to this ‘man of God’. However, they were deeply hurt by the offhand and negative response from the ‘man of God’ that years later the leader was telling me how it still hurts. I was able to help him. But the ‘man of God’ hasn’t spent years carrying the disappointment of hurting someone because of foolish and unwholesome talk.
If God places you in a new position then there is a new vocabulary of heart and mouth to learn. You have to watch your mouth. You have the possibility to bring great harm. What was acceptable before may not be so now.
I wonder if we carried a voice recorder around with us for a whole day and then play it back what we would discover?!
During lockdown I have been dealing with a lot of conflict management on zoom. There is a beautiful button called ‘mute’. Maybe we should use it more often?