by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward
“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.” Ephesians 4:29 NIV
A friend I worked with for several years was known for his sarcasm and quick comebacks. But after realizing his “humor” had hurt people’s feelings, he began to work hard to control his speech. Whenever he wanted to say something he knew he shouldn’t, he would pass his hand in front of his face as a physical reminder to “filter” his words. It was a visible reminder to himself to think before he spoke. It gave him pause. Of course, since his efforts weren’t subtle, we all knew he had left something unsaid.
Like my friend, we all need to “filter” our words before we allow them to leave our mouths, to check our speech for any impurities or damaging elements. Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t much value the verbal filter today. Instead, we want to hear every cutting, rude, crude, hurtful word. In fact, the more outrageous the better. All we have to do is tack on a “just saying” and it’s all good.
God not only tells His children we should use filters for our mouths, He tells us very specifically what we should filter out and what we should allow ourselves to say in Ephesians 4:29 NIV: “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.”
The Greek word translated as “unwholesome” refers to far more than foul language or curse words. It means we shouldn’t say anything that tears down or deflates the one who hears our words. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever say anything hard or difficult to hear, but that the goal of our speech is to help and build up the other person.
This is so challenging for me! Think about this, what percentage of what comes out of our mouths helps and builds up the hearer? What percentage hurts or tears down the hearer?
Yes, I long for 100% of my words to build up and 0% to tear down. Unfortunately, my filter is often faulty. How about you?
God commands us to control our speech, so in part, using our filter is a step of obedience. But we also need the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit because “no one can tame the tongue” (James 3:8) on our own. We need His divine power!
If you want to tame the tongue and control your speech, join me in this “filter prayer”:
Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3, NIV
Here’s the good news: God is waiting to help us control our speech! Let’s ask Him to help us keep that filter in place!
About the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.
Kathy’s book “Before His Throne” leads you on a 9-week journey through the book of Malachi to discover what godly fear looks in our daily lives and how this biblical attitude will help you find deeper intimacy with God.
Join the conversation: What about you? Have you ever taken pride in your “anything goes” speech? Have you struggled to control it only to fail time and time again?