Archive for the ‘Ephesians 4’ Category

Words That Build Others Up

We talked before about how our words are a dangerous power. Today we look at how they can be dangerous in terms of hurting and wounding others; how they can be a destructive power.

We have all felt the devastation that comes from another’s words and also, no doubt, have done our share of hurting others with our words.

As Christians, we need to tend to our relationships with each other and guard them. And a part of this is that we must be careful with our words to each other. We must be careful not to use destructive words, but rather words that build each other up.

Focus Verse

“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” – Ephesians 4:29 (NRSV)

We have a building or construction metaphor in this verse. We are all like a house, that can be torn down or built up. And this verse tells us that our words can serve to build someone up or to tear them down. And we have to choose which it will be.

Destructive words

So first we look at some examples of speech that tears down with a view to how evil these are from God’s point of view.

1. Angry words that tear down. Jesus talks about this in – Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Jesus is talking about angry insults and name calling (“you fool”). If we see another person as a house, these words are meant to damage and destroy it.

How serious is this? Well, Jesus is talking about the 6th commandment against murder in this passage. He is saying that angry insults and name calling that tear down and wound others are like unto murder. And we see the serious warning of judgment as well.

2. Words of gossip. There are different kinds of gossip, but here I am focusing on spreading true, but negative information about others in order to tear down their reputation.

In other words, it is done to dishonor, degrade the person in the eyes of others. Again, if we see another person as a house, gossip is designed to damage and destroy that person.

How serious is it? In Romans 1:29 – “Gossip” is likened to ruthlessness, murder and hating God. And Romans 1:32, talking about all these things and more says, “those who practice such things deserve to die.” God sees it as deadly serious.

3. Slanderous words. These are lies or half-truths directed at destroying someone’s  reputation and to damage their relationships with others. It can be done secretly, and so be a form of gossip, or it can be done openly for all the hear.

Again, slander seeks to damage and destroy another person, like a wreaking ball coming down on a house.

How serious is it? Jesus says in Matthew 15:19 – “For out of the heart come evil thoughts . . . slander.” It comes from a heart that has evil thoughts.

4. Destructive criticism. This is not constructive criticism that comes from concern or love for the person – to help them. Rather, it seeks to discredit and diminish the person.

It comes from a critical spirit where you are looking for what is wrong. It is using disagreements to destroy and  damage the person – to deconstruct them.

How serious is it? James 5:9 says, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” Once again, God judges those who use words that tear down other people.

We can mention other kinds of destructive speech:

  • destructive humor
  • false accusations
  • complaining
  • backbiting
  • expressions of contempt

Any words that tear down, demean and attack; that are harsh, abusive or belittling; words that are mean, nasty, unkind, hurtful and malicious – all of these are unacceptable.

This all points us back to what we saw before – our words can be weapons of destruction. We can have “tongues like swords” and “words like arrows” – Psalm 64:3. Certainly we can see why James says that the tongue is “set on fire by hell” – 3:6 and that “it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” – 3:8.

Just as with the first example of angry words, all these words that tear down and destroy are verbal assault and murder. Let’s be clear here. These kind of words do not come from God. They come from Satan who has been a murderer from the beginning, as Jesus tells us.

So we need to guard our mouths from these . . . and that means also watching over our hands as we write . . .


Email (or letters, or texting) can get us into such trouble.

  • Its easier to be mean from a distance, when you are not in the person’s presence, not looking them in the eye. The lack of presence can make you be more cold hearted than you otherwise might be.
  • Emails are also easy to misconstrue – things get shortened, you can’t hear the tone of the words, you can see the nonverbal body language. Especially when there is conflict – it is easy to read into them your own feelings.

So please don’t use emails (etc) when there is a conflict. Face to face is the better way to go.

Edifying Words

Now back to our text as we finish – “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” – Ephesians 4:29. Lets look at three points:

1. “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths.” This would certainly include what we have just looked at, plus more. We must guard our mouths and not allow Satan to speak through us to destroy our sisters and brothers.

2. Speak words that build up and impart grace. Speak “only what is useful for building up . . . so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” This is the opposite of words that tear down. If we think of a person as a house, it means building them up.

  • Words that lift up, encourage, strengthen, give hope
  • Words of concern – how are you? can I help you?
  • Even words of correction, when someone is taking the wrong path. This is speaking the truth in love (if done rightly). This keeps them from tearing themselves down.
  • Words of blessing and praise

Why do we do this? Because “love builds up” – I Corinthians 8:1. And so our words to others should be loving and life giving.

3. “As there is need.” This means not just being aware of your concerns. See where they are at and what their needs are. This is what love is about. And then speak according to their need to build them up.

1 Thessalonians 5:14, which talks about words that build up, says, “And we urge you, sisters and brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted . . ..” We don’t encourage the idle in their idleness. And we don’t admonish the fainthearted – rebuking those who are hanging by a thread.

We say the right words according to the situation. Find out what the need is and then minister God’s grace to that need with words that build them up.

As we hear this teaching may God give us a heart of love and kindness for one another and may we speak accordingly.
William Higgins

Read Full Post »