Author: Ron Graham
The text for this lesson is a most definitive statement about Christian communication... "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear it" (Ephesians 4:29).
The passage into which this verse fits, tells us not to speak evil. However, there is more to Christian communication than the mere absence of evil speaking. We do not avoid speaking evil by ceasing to speak at all. Of course, we have to be careful in what we say, but our challenge is to speak so that our utterances are righteous. That is usually far more use than silence. Of course there is "a time to speak and a time to keep silent" (Ecclesiastes 3:7) nevertheless "a word fitly spoken" (Proverbs 25:11) is, in general, more positive and of more value than silence.
So, knowing that God is displeased with evil speaking, we do not respond to his displeasure by offering him silence. If someone complained that you always burnt their toast, you would not stop serving them toast or give them plain bread. That would not make them happy. You would try to give them toast just the way they like it. By the same principle, if God is not happy with the way we speak, we don't stop speaking, but rather we try to conform our speech to that which will please God (Ephesians 5:9-11).
James tells the Christian to "bridle his tongue" (James 1:26). But we don't put bridles on horses and "bits into horses' mouths" (James 3:2-3) to make the horses go nowhere, but to tame their wildness and make them go in an orderly manner as we wish. In the same way, we bridle our tongues to replace the wild uncontrolled speech with disciplined and positive speech.
Our text (Ephesians 4:29) shows us the positive nature of Christian communication, and that's what we must try to practice.
Our text (Ephesians 4:29) requires three things of our speech. These three requisites cover the intent, content, and extent of our speech, and set the standard for Christian communication.
There are all kinds of communication problems that we encounter. For example, we may come up against the brick walls of the taciturn and tight-lipped. Again, we might experience an atmosphere of fear and an undercurrent of mistrust, jealousy, cliquishness, judgmental assumptions. We may observe whispering and backbiting. There may be the kind of negative communication that makes you feel unhelped, pushed aside, foolish, kept in the dark. All these "negative vibes" and many more, exist because people are not following God's guidelines for positive Christian communication.
We finish our lesson with a few pointers to improving our communication and making it positive, fruitful, and pleasing to God.