29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV)
In verses 22 – 24 of chapter 4, Paul instructed the Ephesians (and us) to “put off” former attitudes and behaviors, and to “put on” other more Christ-like ones. Today, Paul continues his list, as he addresses our speech and relationships.
- Our Speech:
Paul instructs us to filter our speech, and not let any unwholesome talk come out. Rather than list all the things that should not be said, Paul goes on to list the positive things that should come out of our mouths. Everything else, by definition, should be filtered out.
So what does Paul list as the positives? Only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. This can include encouragement, exhortation, gentle correction, and rebukes (reprimands) when needed (2 Timothy 4:2).
Paul tells us why we do this – for the benefit of the one being instructed, according to their needs. We are not to boss people around just because we have authority over them, nor are we to flatter others with all positive speech, just to give them “warm fuzzies”. Paul is reiterating and providing clarity for what he said in verse 15 – encouraging us to learn to speak the truth in love.
In between these two sections, Paul reminds us that if we don’t put off the old way of life and put on the new way that the Bible teaches, it grieves the Holy Spirit. In other words, it breaks God’s heart and makes Him cry. In the same way that others can break our hearts and cause us to weep because of their wrong choices, Paul says God has that same reaction when we choose to go our own way and ignore His instructions.
- Our Relationships:
Paul has quite a laundry list of attitudes and actions that need to be put off when it comes to relationships:
- bitterness – long-term hatred of another person
- rage – passionate, fierce, red-hot anger toward another person
- anger – expressing our words of displeasure toward others
- brawling – an argumentative outcry as a response to someone or something
- slander – false statements of others, to give a bad opinion of the other person
- malice – to cause harm to another person via our speech
Instead, Paul says that we are to be kind and compassionate to one another, and forgive one another, just as in Christ God forgave us. And while Paul does not specifically call it out, practicing kindness, compassion, and forgiveness brings peace to relationships, and moves all involved toward unity.
May we learn to put off the old way of life, and put on the new way of life as Paul described in today’s verses. Not only will we benefit, but others around us will benefit as well. And God rejoices.