It's nice to share. That is what I was taught when I was younger and what we taught our children when we became parents. Generosity is a virtue that is important to cultivate, but equally important to the need to give is understanding what we should be giving. When we share things that bless others, make them stronger and encourage them to experience all that God has in store for them, we demonstrate the best of generosity. However, that is not always all that we share, especially when it comes to what we say.
In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul reminded them, "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." (4:29)
Did you hear that? We are to watch our words in order to ensure that they are good words; words that are wholesome, words that build up and not tear down, words that benefit the listeners not cost them their peace. Our lives, including our words, are meant to be a blessing that flows from the knowledge that we are blessed by God.
Too often, people pay no attention to the impact of what they say. It is so easy to express ourselves in ways that discourage and wound others. Sometimes, we allow our own hurts and frustrations to flow out from within us and instead of sharing blessings, we offer destruction. It ought not to be this way.
Words are creative. From the very beginning, we see that words have power. The Scripture even describes God's method of creation as, "and God said." God spoke things into being and, as creatures formed in God's image, we do the same. When a parent says to a child, "why do you have to be so stupid?" they form the seeds of a reality within them. When a spouse says, "I wish I never married you," the first steps of separation have already occurred. The list of possibilities is endless, but when we speak destructive words, we are potentially damaging someone else and even ourselves in the process.
Sadly, this happens even within the body of Christ. I cannot begin to tell you the number of conversations and meetings I've been in where I have heard people speak anger, fear, and pain into the lives of others. The people speaking often feel such good intentions, but they take no thought of the repercussions of their words. They miss the long-term impact in the lives of others and even in the whole body.
Thankfully, what can be used in harmful ways can also be used to bring life. Paul challenges us to guard against unwholesome speech, but then reminds us of the power we have to build others up and to benefit those who hear what we say. Our days are filled with opportunities to strengthen the people around us, to encourage them on their journey. We are given the very words of life. As representatives of God and emissaries of the kingdom, we ought to share those words every chance we get.
It is easy to cut down, be critical and sow seeds of fear and doubt, but we are not meant for this. We are made to build up, encourage and plant a harvest of faith and hope. Just think of the difference we can make by speaking the words of Christ into the brokenness of the world. It can be a word of encouragement to the young man who checks us out at the grocery store, helping a coworker see past a failure to the future God has for them, or assisting the family that sits in the pew next to us to believe God is bigger than their situation. We can avoid the drama and declare the goodness of God.
The question that is always before us therefore, is, "What are you saying?" If we remember to ask ourselves this question in the midst of our conversations and as we reflect on our day, we can trust that the Holy Spirit will help us see the places where our speech is hurtful, and where it is helpful. Then, we can look to the same Spirit to give us the means to change what we say so that ever word that proceeds from our mouths will be right word and at the right time.
So, I ask you, "What will you say today?"