August 16, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 4:29 (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.
Words have power. Words can build up and inspire. Or they can tear down and deflate. Ephesians 4:29 urges us to use well the power of words, to strengthen and encourage others. Through our words, we can actually share God’s grace with others. Will you use the power of your words today for good?
Words are powerful. They can build up and inspire. Or they can tear down and deflate. Ephesians 4:29 urges us to take seriously the power of our words.
In Ephesians 4:22-24 our life in Christ is pictured as a matter of putting off the old self and putting on the new. We get strip off the negative and dress up in the positive. The verses that follow offer specific applications of this general principle. In Ephesians 4:25 we’re to put off falsehood and speak truthfully instead. In Ephesians 4:26 we’re to take off sinful expressions of anger. In Ephesians 4:28 thieves are to stop stealing and start working.
Ephesians 4:29 continues this pattern of moral exhortation, beginning with the negative to be rejected before moving to the positive to be embraced: “Let no evil [sapros] talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful [agathos] for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” The Greek word sapros can mean “rotten, of poor quality, bad, or harmful.” It shows up in the saying of Jesus, “[E]very good [agathon] tree bears good fruit, but a bad [sapron] tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17). As Christians, we need to put away rotten words that harm and hurt others, words that tear down rather than building up.
By contrast, we are to use our language positively. The words that come out of our mouths should be “useful [agathos] for building up” (Ephesians 4:29). The word translated here as “helpful” can simply mean “good.” Note two ways in which we can use the power of words for good. First, our words can build up people according to their needs. Second, our words can “give grace to those who hear.” That’s right. Your words can be a source of grace to others.
Ephesians 4:29 challenges us to consider how we use the power of our words. Do your words tear down or hurt others? Do you get stuck in complaining that discourages others and fractures community? Or do you use the power of speech for good, for building up those around you and for being a channel of God’s grace to them?
As you think about these questions, you might ask yourself: How would my colleagues at work describe the impact of my words? How would my close friends or family members talk about how I use the power of my words? Am I known as someone who regularly builds up others?
Do I see myself as a channel of God’s grace through my words? Would others see me this way?
Surely there are people in your life today who could use some building up. Use your words to do this very thing. Be a channel of God’s grace for those in your life who need encouragement.
Gracious God, I am challenged by Ephesians 4:29. Though I’m not one to use lots of “bad language,” there are times when I revel in complaining or gossip. I can use my words in ways that hurt others and break down community. Forgive me, Lord.
Help me to steward well the power of my words. May I see opportunities to build up others and seize these opportunities. May I find ways to share your grace with others throughout the day, whether I’m at work or at home, hanging out with friends or interacting with a checkout clerk. Help me to use the power of my words for good, for your good, Lord, and for the good of others. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. An article on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Sharing the Gospel by Showing Concern
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.