August 25, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 4:29-30 (NRSV)
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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.
When we use words to tear someone down, God is grieved. But when we use words to build someone up, God rejoices. Today, use your words to share the grace of God with others. They will appreciate it and God will be delighted.
Ephesians 4:30 says we should not grieve the Holy Spirit. In context, we understand that we can do this through using our words so as to hurt others.
But can our words also give God pleasure? In yesterday’s devotion, I shared a collection of biblical passages that reveal God’s delight in us. Taking what we learn from these passages and connecting this to Ephesians 4:30, it does seem likely that our words can give delight to God.
Psalm 19 makes this truth crystal clear. Verse 14 of this psalm reads, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, NIV). The psalmist knows that his words can be “pleasing” in the sight of God. (See also Psalm 104:34.)
I grew up with a slightly different translation of this verse: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” The King James Version used “acceptable” to translate the Hebrew word ratzon. This translation misses nuances of ratzon that are better represented by the NIV’s “pleasing in your sight.” For example, in Proverbs 16:13 we read, “Righteous lips are the delight [ratzon] of a king.” Or, in Esther 1:8, the king gives a command that each of his guests could drink whatever he wanted, “for the king had given orders to all the officials of his palace to do as each one desired [ratzon, meaning “according to his pleasure”].” Thus, Psalm 19:14 shows us that our words can be, not just acceptable to God, but even desirable or pleasing to God.
There are many different ways to use words to give pleasure to God. To be sure, our words of worship, whether spoken, prayed, or sung, can please the Lord. But, Ephesians 4:29-30 helps us to see that our words can please God not only when they are directed to God in worship but also when they build up others, meet the needs of others, and benefit those who hear them.
Think of it! When you use your words to encourage someone, when your words are a channel of God’s grace to others, the Spirit of God is pleased. God delights in you because he has chosen to love you with an everlasting love. But through using the power of your words to serve others and to build up the body of Christ, you can give joy to God.
Ephesians 4:29-30 focuses on speech that happens among members of Christ’s body. But it would be wrong to limit the lessons of this passage to communication only among Christians. If, for example, your colleagues at work represent other religious traditions or are not religious, you can still use your words to give grace to them. As you do, the God of grace is pleased.
Can you think of times when your words helped others, and therefore gave joy to God?
Are there people in your life right now who need to hear your words of grace, love, and encouragement?
What might you say to them that will serve them and give pleasure to God?
Take some time to consider prayerfully who in your life needs to receive God’s grace through your words. Then act on what you have realized. Use your words to build up at least one other person today. More than one is fine, too!
May all the words of my mouth and all the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. May I give you joy in what I say, always. Amen.
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Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: A Prayer That’s Not Just for the Pulpit
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, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.