The Power of a Word

This is a post I wrote on another blog last year, but I decided to post it here at Rural Theologian since I have a larger audience now.   This is a verse that I try to meditate upon often because I’m so quick to waste my words.  Even if you’re read it previously, let it be afresh in your memory.  

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Eph. 5:29)

Words have power.  The words of God were used to create something out of nothing.  Words have been used to start revolutions.  They have been used to relieve an awkward silence between two people.  Words are meant to accomplish something.  They do accomplish something.

That’s exactly what Paul is saying here in Ephesians.  The words that we speak have an effect.  They can corrupt or build up, but one way or another, they “do” something.

In light of this, he calls us to be mindful of the words we speak.  This section of the letter outlines how the life of the “new man”, or the life that has been gripped by the power of the gospel, should look.  The gospel radically affects every area of life, including our ordinary conversations.

The apostle calls us to avoid “corrupting talk.”  While often limited to vulgar language, corrupting talk is much more common than we would like to think.  It could be that snide remark you make to a co-worker, that gossip you share with a friend, or anything else that does not accord with a life that has been changed by the gospel.

As Christians, we often stop here.  If I don’t speak curse words or speak too badly about others then I’m doing enough.  But Paul does not stop there.  He tells us that a gospel-centered life is one that is wise with words and seeks to build up or give grace to those around us.  We have been given a responsibility by God to be mindful of our conversations and seek the growth of anyone who happens to cross our paths.  Think how many mindless conversations you have had in the past day. The past week.

It’s mind-boggling to think how many words we waste in the course of a week.  How often do your conversations with friends wander aimlessly for hours with no direction or care?  It’s far too common in my life than I’d like to share in public.

Now, I can hear the objection forming in some minds right now, “Cody, you’re being legalistic.  You mean we can’t talk about sports or The Office or things like that?”  No, that’s not what I’m saying.  I’m not calling for us to only speak Scripture verses to one another all of the time.  I am calling for us to be intentional about our conversations and let them be directed with a purpose.

Sometimes a spirited debate about your favorite college football team is good; it can been a means of strengthening a friendship, which is a good and right thing.  But a friendship or any “ship” that is limited to the shallow waters misses the point for which we have community–to point us to the True Community, the Trinity.  Our words should point others to the majestic reality that Father, Son, and Spirit have worked and are working in this world which we live.  They should seek to point others to the wealth of riches that are found in the gospel.

Words have power.  How will you use them today?

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