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)
In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul gives multiple instructions concerning the way we speak: We should speak the truth, not falsehood, and avoid clamor, slander, and malice. But the ‘rule’ of verse 29 can help us cover all the bases when it comes to honoring God with our speech.
First, notice the prohibition: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths.” We can imagine a mother telling her child, “Think before you speak!” You are in control of what comes out. But next, Paul gives the positive command: the only speech that should come out of your mouth is what ‘is good for building up, as fits the occasion’. There is your criteria for Should I say it or not? Answer: if it builds up the other person, yes. If not, no. And don’t miss that this speech ‘fits the occasion’ or ‘need’. In other words, part of building up another person is discerning what to say in the moment. What do they need to hear? (Not, what do I want to say?!). And finally, the result of positive, encouraging speech is that it ‘may give grace to those who hear’. Your encouraging words land and have a positive impact.
As a leader, a teacher, a parent, your vocation requires that you open your mouth and ‘pour forth’ speech! Ask God to help you stay in control of your tongue, to only say those things that build others up, words that fit the occasion. When you’re called to correct someone else about their speech, encourage them by this same rule. And let us give grace to those who hear us.