Text: Ephesians 4:25-32 | Listen to Message
Sticks And Stones
Everything that comes out of your mouth is simply the overflow of what’s already dominating your heart. If you are a critical, complaining, truth-twisting gossip, it’s because your heart is full of spiritual cancer. It’s a simple fact that meek, forgiving, loving people don’t talk bad about others.
Here’s something to remember whenever you hear someone gossiping or being critical of others behind their backs: you haven’t necessarily learned anything about the persons being discussed, but you’ve learned a ton about the person doing the discussing. He or she is proud. He or she is literally doing the work of the devil, who is the source of all lies, slander, and accusations against Christians (John 8:44; Ephesians 4: 27; James 3:6; Revelation 12:10). Beware: he or she will talk about you the same way when you’re not around.
Okay, so let’s assume some of this diseased, deceitful, destructive, dispensable, divisive talk has come out of your mouth in the past – after all, James 3:2 says if don’t stumble in what you say, you’re probably perfect in every way. So nobody has this all down. But let’s assume you’re determined to change – to build others up with your words rather than tearing them down. What would that look like?
Ephesians 4:15 and 29 give us a what, a how, and a why of good communication:
WHAT? Always speak the truth.
Those who follow Christ, who is the Truth, do not practice falsehood (including lies, exaggerations, half-truths, misrepresentations, slander, and broken promises/commitments). Christians speak things that accord with reality, even to their own hurt.
HOW? In love.
God is love and those who trust in Him speak in a manner that is loving. Recipients of God’s kindness are quick to speak kindly of and with fellow sinners. Yes, sometimes true love sounds like a warning, confrontation, or exhortation; but it never sounds like confessing someone else’s sins behind their back.
WHY? The goal of Christian communication is to promote God’s purposes in the lives of others.
If you want to check yourself and see how you’re doing at this, consider three questions taken from Ephesians 4:29b:
First, will this build others up? Every word you speak is either building up or tearing down. You are either encouraging or discouraging, unifying or dividing, strengthening or weakening, the body and bride of Christ. Think about the content, the tone, and the audience of your words. Are the people hearing you being built up by what you say and how you say it? What about the people you’re talking about?
Second, is this necessary and appropriate? A lot of words simply don’t “fit the occasion.” Maybe they’re true, but they don’t fit because you’re telling the wrong audience (gossip). Maybe they’re just idle words that don’t need to be said at all (rumor-mongering). A foolish person constantly fills the silence with talking about … whatever; a wise person does not.
Third, will this serve as a channel of God’s grace? Do your words “give grace to those who hear”? Do people have a higher view of God’s undeserved kindness after talking to you? Do they have a better appreciation for the Gospel? Have they actually experienced the power and hope and freedom of grace through your words? Or do people walk away from you feeling more self-righteous and more judgmental because you both know you’re so much better than that person you just trashed? Or do they walk away feeling more guilty and ashamed?
Before you say that next sarcastic, critical, judgmental word, will you stop and think? Will you consider both your motives and the possible outcomes of what you’re about to say? And will you choose to speak words that give life?