Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
— Ephesians 4:29
Some of the “dirtiest talk” I’ve ever heard used to happen almost every week at the end of our living room couch as I was growing up. About once a week, a certain member of our church would drop by to visit with my parents. She was the church gossip, and she always came loaded with the “latest scoop” on people’s personal matters that were absolutely none of her business to know or to discuss. Although my parents loved her, I can still see my dad rolling his eyes when he realized it was her ringing the doorbell of our house. She’d plop down on the end of the couch and within seconds, the verbal garbage would begin to flow about everyone and everything — absolutely no one’s personal business was off-limits! If a person attended our church, then like it or not, that person was a potential victim of this woman’s tongue.
This woman’s fairly regular visits to our house represented some of the ugliest moments of socializing I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Outright cursing would have been totally inappropriate for any believer, much less for a leading church member. Yet what this woman did in our living room almost every week was as distasteful to God as cursing — if not more so.
*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
Talking badly about others behind their backs, such as the outpouring of gossip that proceeded from this woman’s mouth, is a type of nasty conversation too often tolerated in the Church. The apostle Paul called this kind of talk “corrupt communication” — and he strictly forbade it when he said to let no talk of this type proceed out of our mouths!
In the Greek text, the word “corrupt” is the sapros, a word that depicts something that is putrid or rotten. The word “putrid” describes meat that has gone so bad that it emits a foul smell. The decomposing meat reeks of a noxious and rancid smell that nearly makes a person sick to his stomach. The word “rotten” describes fruit that is spoiled, decayed, and sickening to the taste. It can also be described as putrid. Either way, whether meat or fruit, if something is putrid, it is disgusting to taste or smell. So when the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to use the word sapros to describe “corrupt communication,” he was describing communication that is really nasty.
The word “communication” is the Greek word logos, which simply means words. But when it is used in conjunction with the word “corrupt,” the Greek phrase describes words or forms of communication that are putrid or disgusting to the recipient. As far as God is concerned, this type of communication reeks. And those who consume this type of talk find it to be so putrid that it sickens them, just as spoiled meat would do. And just as a rotten apple must be removed from a bucket of apples or it will eventually spread and ruin the entire batch of good apples, this is how ruinous “corrupt communication” can be to those who listen to it, as far as God is concerned. Everything about corrupt communication has a putrefying effect on others.
Paul says instead of spreading corrupt communication to others, we must learn to speak that which is “edifying” to hearers (see Ephesians 4:29). The word “edifying” is the Greek word oikodomeo and, as used here, means to build others up. These words never result in tearing someone down, but rather cause others to be left in an improved state after we are done talking to or about them.
Have you ever known a person who always had something good to say about someone else? Doesn’t that person leave a sweet taste in your mouth? You feel good about the time you spend with such a positive, sweet-speaking individual. In fact, you feel challenged to rise higher and be better every time you leave that person’s presence! What a difference that experience is from an encounter with a person who tears others down and leaves a bitter taste people’s mouths!
The Holy Spirit is urging us to become a wellspring of good words when we talk to and about others. Rather than have the putrefying effect that a gossiper has on his or her listeners, we must determine that our words build others up and leave them in a much-improved state of being! That is the Holy Spirit’s message in Ephesians 4:29.
The woman I told you about earlier was someone who never missed church and served faithfully, but she had never learned to control her tongue. Had she really understood the stench her words were releasing into the atmosphere and into the ears of her listeners, I’m sure she would have asked the Holy Spirit to help her change.
I believe that today the Holy Spirit is speaking to you about your tongue and your words. Ask yourself this: Does God commend me for leaving others in better shape because of my words, or is He saying that I need to get a grip on my tongue and stop talking in a way that puts others down and harms their reputations? Only you know the answer to these questions!
Why don’t you make the determined decision that from this day forward, when you leave a room or a conversation, you leave it with the sweet fragrance of Jesus lingering behind you? Let people remember you for the kind words you left behind. You can be known as one who leaves a sweet taste in people’s mouth every time you leave a conversation or walk out of a room!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I ask You to forgive me for allowing myself to get involved in conversations that were unfruitful and hurtful to those who were listening. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Gossip is a form of putrid communication that defiles both the speaker and the hearer. I realize that I have been guilty of gossiping and discussing things that are none of my business, and I sincerely repent for these actions. I ask You to set a guard over my mouth so I no longer do this. I want to be only a river of life to others who are near me. Let my words be of benefit to others to build them up so that after I leave them, they are in better shape than they were before they talked to me.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that my mouth speaks good things about others. I do not gossip about others, nor do I tear others down with my words. The Holy Spirit is inside me, and I do not grieve Him by foul talk. I yield to the Spirit, and as a result, I speak words that minister grace to those who hear me. After spending time conversing with people, I leave a sweet taste in their mouths and they are blessed by the fellowship they shared with me.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever known someone whose mouth was like an open sewer because that person’s conversation was so often full of gossip about others? What kind of effect did his or her “gossipy” attitude have on you and others?
- If you find yourself in a situation where a gossip is spewing out putrid information about others, what is your responsibility? Should you simply be silent and let it go on uninterrupted, or would the Holy Spirit want you to take some other action?
- Are you guilty of speaking about matters that are none of your business and that don’t edify those who are listening? If you’ve been guilty of gossiping and disseminating information about others that is none of your business, what is the Holy Spirit expecting you to do about it?
- Can you think of a person whose words always build you up and leave you glad that you had the opportunity to talk to him or her? Who is that person?