Paul addresses something that plagues every individual in the church and outside the church on a daily basis. So as we continue, no one is exempt from the correction that Paul is teaching to us this morning CBC family. Let me begin by saying “Words can hurt” No one wins in the battles over words, when it the intent or its end game is to hurt the listener. “Words are important” as my English professor said in Bible College and this truth appears to becoming clearer to me every day, that my speech in the past has not been something I can say I’m proud about especially in dealing with my children on occasions. We forget many times how naturally our old nature comes out to visit in the Christian life.
Think about it for a moment! Christians can be very negative, hostile, critical and cruel people to talk to or be around if they daily speak this way about others. And I can guarantee you that the way they talk about others to you; they are doing the same with others about you, in the same way. Why? Critical spirited and callous people are a poison to family and the church and it’s something we cannot tolerate or compromise ever in the body of Christ. James said this “Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” James 3:4-12
There are times when we say inexcusable things to and about each other. And unfortunately words hurt more if not the same as physical abuse. Here is a heads up moment that we are to pay close attention to because the new life is to display something far different then our natural sinful state. The new life is to speak for the sake of personal witness without any words that harm. But! Before we get to that…..Paul uses a word that speaks volumes to the heart of a sinner. Paul says “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth..” (v29a) Other translations use the word “unwholesome”, “Filthy”. This word that Paul uses in the Greek is “sapros” this means “rotten” or “putrid” in our English language. This word is literally referring to “all bad speech.” What Paul is saying is “Do not let any bad speech journey out of your mouths.” What is this unwholesome, corrupt, filthy, putrid speech that Paul is talking about? Unwholesome talk can talk many forms and often points to a bigger sin issue in our lives.
Many Christians figure that giving up cursing words is all that is required in speaking in a God-honoring way. But is this case? The Bible is very explicit about how we are to speak and the Bible goes much deeper into the issue of unwholesome talking that just “curse words” Here are some examples of corrupt, unwholesome words that we need to be aware of and need to steer as far away from in the Christian life as Paul address us in this portion of his letter.
Slander to damage someone else’s reputation with information that doesn’t need to be shared. Lev 19:16-18 says “You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
Gossip to share private information with those who are not part of the problem or solution. Pro 16:28 says “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.”
Arguing someone who argues noisily or angrily, a person who disputes; who is good at or enjoys controversy. Paul warns us “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Gal 5:14-15
Criticizing is to express disapproval of someone or something, critical of everything and everyone, except themselves. Jesus said these words “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” Matt 7:1-5
Filthy language a word essentially meaning "empty-headed", any words or expressions that would generally or commonly be regarded as vulgar, or not suitable for use in formal writing, or in normal or "polite" conversation.
Col 3:8 says “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.”
Paul penned why unwholesome words have eternal implications “Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals." Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.” 1 Cor 15:33-34. Obscene discourse, dishonest talk, should not come into the Christian’s mouth; nasty, lustful, and unclean speeches should not proceed from a Christian’s tongue. These are just a few of a long list that goes on and on about unwholesome words. Understand this “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Prov 18:21
Why is this important to know? Does man have any other ability that can cause such a degree of devastation?
Prov 18:21 says a person who loves their unwholesome words leads to death!
“death and life are in the power of the tongue…” Prov 18:21
Our words stay with us and we need to walk with extreme caution to how we use our words. Unwholesome talk can take many forms and often points to a bigger sin issue in our lives. Remember what Jesus said “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person." Matt 15:11. It’s not what goes in, but what comes out of a person that defiles the person. We need to submit and allow our words to be transformed in light of what Christ has done for us. This is why Paul is telling us “to keep our heads up and be aware of your sinful natural self” We should be praying daily as David did “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” Psalm 141:3.
Our words as children of God are to be used for greater things on this earth for the glory of His name. We are to be witnesses of the grace that has been given to sinners though our gospel confession of our Lord Jesus Christ. Look what Paul says in the remainder of this verse “But only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (v29b) As Christians, we face the reality that the world knows us and judges us by our words. For us to honor God and influence others, we must pay close attention to the words we use. Understand! God doesn’t just want us to give up cussing or unwholesome words; He wants our whole attitude and approach to every conversation to be seasoned with grace, so that it builds up those who listen. We need to be like what Alexandra Whyte said “All of his geese became swans.” What should be the goal of our words as God’s children? We should speak constructive talk, talk that builds each other up. The motto of our lives, should be the likes of Augustine, where he hung this over his dinner table “He who speaks evil of an absent man or woman is not welcome at this table.”
Paul says we are to do THREE THINGS!
The words of a Christian are to be good for edification
“for building up” is the idea of being helpful, constructive, encouraging, instructive, and uplifting. We understand that sometime we must be corrective, but that only comes when it’s done with a right spirit. How is that done properly and biblically? Answer: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:16-17. All Scripture is perfect, it is "profitable" for many areas of life.” Paul lists four areas in this verse. First, Scripture is profitable for teaching. It is to be used to instruct people to know God better. Second, Scripture is profitable for reproof or rebuke, the idea of exposing or pointing out sin. Third, Scripture is useful for correction. Scripture both points out sin and offers a solution to it. Fourth, Scripture is profitable for training in righteousness. Though similar to teaching, training is more focused on practical application. This is the beauty of the Scriptures! From Scripture we learn what is true, what is wrong, how to correct wrong, and how to apply truth.
The words Christians say should be appropriate according to the needs of the moment.
“fits the occasion” It’s using words that are constructive, not so you can go on a long rant by adding things or something that have nothing to do with situation. We should never unnecessarily mention things that might harm, discourage, or disappoint someone one else. Something that might be absolutely true and perfectly wholesome is better left unsaid. Do you understand Men, Women and Teenagers? Prov 25:11 says “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Prov 15:23 says “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” Counselling or comfort given to another in appropriate time and manner is highly acceptable and useful and needed for the moment.
The words the Christian say should be gracious as witnesses of the gospel confession.
“that it may give grace to those who hear.” We have been saved by grace, and we are kept by grace. This means that we are to live, breath and speak grace. This is the characteristics of our God; this also means we should be characterized by grace as God’s children. Our words are to be instruments of God’s grace towards others by which God’s nature is known and heard by those who we speak to. Just as the body needs bread, so the soul needs grace. We are to do this by speaking words of grace to those around us for the purpose of elevating God, who is seated on high for His goodness and grace that He demonstrates to us daily. Understand graciousness always characterized Jesus. Isaiah said this of the loveliness of the speech of Jesus “The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of the learned, That I should know how to speak A word in season to him who is weary….” Isa 50:4 Matthew Poole said “It’s an ability of speaking plainly, and convincingly, and persuadingly, and in all points so as becoming a person taught of God, and filled with all Divine and heavenly wisdom and knowledge
What are they (the people around you) saying about your words?
Is it pleasing to God or is it detestable to God?
Why is this important to examine in my life?
This is why it’s important! The words you speak are a litmus test for the condition of your heart. You are your words and your words are you. Daily, your words are telling everyone who you are. See! If you don’t like the message your words are portraying about you, then it is time to change. To change your words you must change your heart deposition. To change your heart you must change your input: what you see and heart. If you can change your input you can change the condition of your heart; if you can change the condition of your heart you will change the quality of your words; if you can change your words you can change your life! This is all made possible by listening to scripture and the Holy Spirit who will guide us into godliness and holiness for the glory of God. We are to be a light of God’s grace and that means we are to be a people who are seasoned with salt, which is a preservative that helps things from spoiling. The gracious words of the Christian should provide strength and comfort seasoned for eternal purposes. Our graciousness must reflect the grace of Christ, who uses our graciousness to draw others to His grace.