Building Up Others with Your Words: An Example

By Mark D. Roberts

April 25, 2019

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.

Ephesians 4:29

Before we leave Ephesians 4:29, I’d like to share with an example of someone using words to build up others. This example made a strong impression on me and I’d like you to know about it.

many open booksYou may be familiar with Dallas Willard. He was the author of some outstanding books on the Christian life. I became acquainted with Dallas in the 1980s, when I was Pastor of Education at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. I invited Dallas to give a series of lectures on the kingdom of God, lectures that were the basis for his influential book, The Divine Conspiracy.

Dallas, a philosopher of note at the University of Southern California, spoke in a way that non-specialists could understand. One of the most learned men I ever knew, Dallas was able to benefit others through his speech even if they were not well educated. He had no need to show off his learning. He was committed to communicating clearly and kindly.

During one of his lectures at the church, Dallas asked if there were any questions. A man in the back raised his hand. I knew this man slightly. He was a homeless person who lived near the church, someone who was surely mentally ill. He asked a question that embarrassed me because it was so inappropriate and, I felt, dishonoring to such a fine teacher as Dallas. But Dallas did not seem the least flustered. He looked squarely at the man and framed an answer that was utterly respectful, utterly kind, taking seriously what the man had tried to ask. I was stunned and ashamed. Whereas I had judged the homeless man, Dallas used his words to build up this man, to honor him and respect him.

As I reflected on how Dallas had treated the homeless man, I thought two things. First, that is just like Jesus. Second, I want to be like that.

Something to Think About:

Can you think of a time in your life when someone used words to build you up?

Can you think of a time when you used your words to build up another person?

Something to Do:

Do it! Today, use your words to build up someone else according to his or her needs. In fact, you might do this even more than once today!


Gracious God, you have given us the power of words, the power to tear down or to build up, the power to express hate or to communicate love. Help me, Lord, to use the power you have given me for good. May my words be kind and encouraging. If I need to say something to someone that will be hard to hear, may I speak the truth in love. 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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