Ephesians 4:29 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.
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Undoubtedly, you have heard this phrase. You have probably said it to your friends or your kids or your spouse. It seems as though this phrase is taken right out of Ephesians 4:29. And in many ways it is. But I think there is a bit more to Paul’s statement. After all, he doesn’t mention not saying anything at all. Keeping quiet isn’t one of the options given here.
So what is unwholesome talk? It is not simply, unkind words. This word unwholesome refers to something that is rotten, corrupted, bad quality, or useless. This covers a much wider range of words than just cuss words. We think that unwholesome talk means, “don’t swear,” but that’s not what he is getting at. Paul is actually telling the Ephesians that they shouldn’t be using their speech in a useless way. Let’s continue with the word talk. This word is obviously about speech. It covers words that are said, topics that are discussed, and even doctrine that is preached. The point here is that we are not to waste our words on useless matters. That would include arguing about stupid stuff. It includes jokes in bad taste. It includes putting someone down. It includes talking poorly about our husbands and our wives. That’s all unwholesome talk. Why? Because it doesn’t do anything beneficial. It is wasted, useless words.
Instead, the stuff that comes out of our mouths should be speech that builds others up. It should be life-giving words. Are we accurate when speaking about God? Are we kind when we are frustrated? Do we say things about people that will benefit both them and others? These are hard questions to respond to, but they are the questions that point us to using our mouths for life. If we are going to builders, it must start with our mouths. And if it is going to start with our mouths, it must first start in our minds. And if it is going to start in our minds, it must first start in our hearts. Check yours. When gross stuff comes out of your mouth, ask God to show you your heart. Once your heart is right, you can then be the builder that God wants you to be.