“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.” (Ephesians 4:29 ESV)
We usually think of God as the One who dispenses grace. But Scripture tells us that we can have a part in giving grace to others. This happens when we refrain from harmful speech and direct beneficial speech toward others so that they grow in Christ.
The purpose which motivates such edifying speech is that those who hear will be blessed by grace. In one sense, when God’s people use Christ-honoring speech their words become vessels carrying God’s grace to the ears of others. As our words reflect that which is good, true, wholesome and biblical, they serve to encourage those who hear with the grace of God. Ultimately, it is God who gives the grace; but we can be channels whereby God’s grace flows to others in the streams of spiritual-strengthening speech.
The Bible says much about the devastating effect of harmful speech. A perverse tongue “breaks the spirit” (Prov. 15:3). The tongue is “a fire, a world of unrighteousness… a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:6, 8). If the pen is mightier than the sword, then the tongue is mightier than the gun. It can kill a person in areas that reach much deeper than the physical body.
In contrast, grace-filled speech has an opposite effect that is just as powerful. “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov. 16:24). “A gentle tongue is a tree of life” (Prov. 15:4). Uplifting words can also penetrate deeply, dispensing healing far beyond the reaches of modern medicine.
While graceless words can crush another’s spirit, grace-filled words can provide life and health to a needy spirit. The receiver of degrading speech tastes that which is sour, but the hearer of encouraging speech delights in that which is sweet to the soul.
Words matter. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). Speak grace and bring life to those who hear.