Avoid Empty Words, Part 2

By Mark D. Roberts

June 17, 2019

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

Ephesians 5:6

In last Thursday’s Life for Leaders devotion we saw that “empty words” are those lacking truth. Such words sound full but are without substance. They promise life but lead to death. They appear to be wise but lead us in the path of foolishness.

open books in sunny windowsillThe Apostle Paul was particularly concerned about “empty words” that might deceive us concerning the best ways to live when it comes to sexuality and money. Indeed, we should be wary of the flood of such empty words in our own day. But the phrase “empty words” suggests another application, one that Paul would not have considered.

I’m thinking of the way that modern technology fosters “empty-wordiness.” Twenty-four-hour news shows require words to be spoken long after the meaningful ones have run out. Countless cable channels fill our televisions – and perhaps our living rooms and our minds – with silly and senseless words. Then there’s the Internet. This technological wonder fosters a flood of empty words unlike anything before in human history. Email invites quick rather than thoughtful responses. Texting accelerates our progress towards verbal emptiness. Twitter users post 6,000 tweets . . . per second. That’s 500 million tweets a day, or 200 billion per year.

Of course, our technology can also capture and distribute “non-empty words,” words that are full of truth and love. At least I hope this is so, given that I write the words of my Life for Leaders devotions to be distributed through email and the De Pree Center website, where you can catch up on missed devotions or search for archived ones (https://lifeforleaders.depree.org/devotionals/). You and I are not compelled to consume the empty words offered to us on the Internet. And we certainly don’t have to add to them. But avoiding empty words requires us to be aware, to consider, and to make conscious choices about what we consume and what we contribute.

Perhaps we need to reflect deeply on the implications for us of Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 5:6, “Let no one deceive you with empty words.” And perhaps we need to hear once again the ancient wisdom of the Preacher, who said, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). With that, I’ll sign off.

Something to Think About:

When are you tempted to consume empty words? Why?

When do you add to the flood of empty words? Why?

Are all such empty words harmful? Or is it okay to play around with words sometimes?

How can we be people who take in and who produce words full of truth and love?

Something to Do:

Take a close look at your life. Are you indulging more than you should in empty words? I’m not suggesting that we become legalistic. But it is worth thinking about whether we are on a steady diet of words that offer no real nutrition. If this is even somewhat true for you, talk with the Lord about what you might do differently.

For example, some years ago, my small group encouraged me to change my pattern of word intake in the morning. Instead of starting my day with email and then doing my devotions, I decided to begin with Scripture and prayer. Even this modest change has made a significant difference in my day. I’m not implying, by the way, that all my emails are empty words. But I can take in even the important emails with more wisdom if I begin my day with the full words of Scripture.


Gracious God, help me to avoid empty words that would impoverish my soul, my mind, and my relationships. Help me to take in and to speak words that enrich my inner life and bless others. Most of all, may my diet of words and my production of words honor you always. Amen.

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project:
5 Ways to Bless Others With Your Words at Work

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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