EPHESIANS 4:29—DON’T LET UNWHOLESOME WORDS EXIT YOUR MOUTH
The words that are spoken give great revelation to the state of the heart. Sinful speech can fall into disgraces against God and those against man. Those against God can be rash swearing in the name of God, irreverence toward God in light conversation, using Scripture in a jesting or scoffing manner, mocking the church and those who are serious about their walk with God, reasoning against the doctrines of the church to defend sinful practices or opinions, and murmuring and complaining. Speech against man can fall into areas such as idle speaking with words that add no value, coarse jesting that has worldly undertones or innuendo, lying, wounding the reputation of others even if the words may be true, slander or spiteful speech that raises a false report. Our speech needs to affirm both God and man.
Most likely when you read the title of the lesson about sinful speech, your mind probably went immediately to a couple of categories. Cursing would probably top the list and then it would be followed by gossip because this is perhaps the only categories we may have thought of.
The passage from Ephesians 4:29 actually covers a much broader category than just cursing and gossip.
A Greek Word Study
When we look at the Greek word “corrupt” it opens up some insight into what further describes for us the little fox of sinful speech. It is from the word σαπρός (sapros) which means rotten or worthless both literally and morally. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines the word as rotten, putrefied; corrupted by one and no longer fit for use, worn out; and of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless. The word also could give the indication of rotten fruit, vegetables and spoiled food that has been left out too long. All of these, if ingested can cause a serious illness to occur. The same holds true for the condition of our soul!
To further give indication as to the whole of this word we can look at the Greek root words to get an even clearer picture. It comes from the root word πονηρός (ponēros) which means hurtful, evil (properly in effect or influence). Figuratively it can mean calamitous; ill, that is, diseased; especially morally culpable. It is speech that is derelict, vicious, and filled with mischief, malice, or guilt. It is literally speech of the devil or of sinners. Other descriptions would be bad, evil, grievous, harm, lewd, malicious, and wicked. This kind of speech is to be removed from our vocabulary. There are kinds of speech that fall into this category of sinful speech.
Gossip, Talebearing, & Slander
Gossip is probably the most common kind of wrong speech that immediately comes to mind. It is defined as idle talk or rumor about the personal or private affairs of others. David Bernard in his book, In Search of Holiness, 25th Anniversary Edition, Revised and Updated, writes:
Gossip is a vicious sin. It is Satan’s primary tool for destroying the church from within. It can destroy confidence in people, harm the innocent, and hinder the repentant. It splits churches, discourages saints, and disillusions new converts. The Bible teaches us to speak evil of no one, especially our brothers and sisters in the Lord (Titus 3:2; James 4:11).
The danger about gossip is that it is empowering to us which caters to a sense of self-exaltation. The person who is “in the know” can actually rationalize their own shortcomings by embellishing the struggles of another. The trap of gossip is that it can furnish a sense of self-righteousness. Be careful that gossip does not take on the form of a prayer request. If you come into contact with negative information about someone it is best to keep it to yourself and spend time in private prayer about. Furthermore, always consider that there are two sides to every rumor that goes around.
Gossip by the very nature of its activity opens one up to another failure called talebearing. A talebearer is a person who actively spreads gossip or secrets about another that damages their reputation by causing them trouble or harm.
Leviticus 19:16 KJV Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.
Proverbs 11:13 KJV A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.
Proverbs 20:19 KJV He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.
Ezekiel 22:9 KJV In thee are men that carry tales to shed blood: and in thee they eat upon the mountains: in the midst of thee they commit lewdness.
Talebearing can actually devolve into slander. Slander is the act of defaming one’s character by using false and malicious statements that causes misrepresentation to take place. Some might raise the objection and say that the information is true. Understand that a slanderers tongue wounds people in such a way that even a physician can heal them because of the damaging words that have been uttered. Sometimes slander can take place because of silence.
Slander can take place in the church when a man who is known to give financially being accused of doing it for false motives. It can take place when we give a prudent man the label of being miserly or selfish. Slander is accusing a man who is very actively involved in a church as having a spirit of pre-eminence. There are times that men who are known as being spiritual and godly men slandered as hypocrites.
Slander is often used in the job market to help people to climb the ladder for promotions and other advantages over others. This has become quite commonplace and accepted in the business world and is often looked upon as being assertive and self-motivated. The problem is that there is a damaged litter of people left in the wake of this kind of behavior. The sad thing is that this behavior is sometimes seen to take place among the church especially in political positions.
However, we have to take Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 4:29 and work toward allowing our speech to be wholesome and productive. We should constantly seek places where that our own words are used for the edification and encouragement of other believers who are seeking to go to heaven.
Another little fox of sinful speech is that of lying. Lying is a false statement made with the deliberate intent to deceive. It is a falsehood that is inaccurate. A lie is told with the obvious intent of making an impression that otherwise would not be made it the truth were told. Consider Proverbs 6:16-19 for what God considers to be an abomination:
Proverbs 6:16-19 KJV These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:  A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,  An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,  A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
It is clear to notice that three of the things that God considers as an abomination has to do with the work of the tongue. A lying tongue (v. 17), a false witness (v. 19), and one who sows discord has to work with his tongue (v. 19). We should constantly seek to be truthful!
Jesus stated that the devil was the father of lies (John 8:44). The first sin was caused by the deceptive lies of the devil to Eve in Genesis 3. He accused Job’s motives for serving the Lrod (Job 1:9-10; 2:4-5). He expressed false hopes and promises to Jesus during the temptation (Matt. 4:8-9; Luke 4:6-7). Because of these attachments to the devil it should motivate us to do everything possible to note fall into the trap of lying.
Throughout the Bible there are multiple examples of lying:
- Adam and Eve—Gen. 3:12-13
- Cain—Gen. 4:9
- Abraham—Gen. 12:11-19; 20:2
- Sarah—Gen. 18:15; 20:5; 20:16
- Isaac—Gen. 26:7-10; 27:6-24; 27:46
- Jacob's sons—Gen. 34
- Joseph's brothers—Gen. 37
- Potiphar's wife—Gen. 39:14-17
- Pharaoh—Ex. 7-12
- Aaron—Ex. 32:1-24
- Saul—1 Sam. 15:1-26; 22:11-16
- David—1 Sam. 21:1-15; 27:8-12; 2 Sam. 15:34-37
- The old prophet of Bethel—1 Kings 13:11-22
- Jeroboam's wife—1 Kings 14:5-7
These are just a few of the examples of lying in the Bible and with each of them, there invariably were challenging circumstances that had to be dealt with because of it. The Bible has some admonitions for us to tell the truth.
Colossians 3:9 KJV Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
Ephesians 4:25 KJV Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
Ephesians 4:15 KJV But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Proverbs 8:7 KJV For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
Proverbs 12:17 KJV He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit.
Zechariah 8:16 KJV These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:
Colossians 3:8 KJV But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
This section ought to cause all of our souls to literally ache! Paul was telling the new converts in Colossae to get rid of their filthy speech. Various translations note this word to be dirty talk, filthy talk, abusive speech, filthy language, and other similar expressions. One commentator (Lightfoot) said this word could be translated as “foul-mouthed abuse.”
This sinful speech can fit into the category of coarse jesting, bathroom “humor,” dirty jokes, and speech given to sexual innuendo. We should be very uncomfortable when we get around this kind of communication no matter what environment that it may be in.
John MacArthur in his commentary on Ephesians (pp. 200-201) has this to say:
. . . They should never be guilty of filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting. Filthiness has to do with general obscenity, any talk that is degrading and disgraceful. It comes from the same Greek root as “disgraceful” in verse 12 where Paul says that such vile things should not even be mentioned, much less participated in, and is related to the term in Colossians 3:8 meaning “dirty speech.”
. . . Coarse jesting, on the other hand, refers to talk that is more pointed and determined. It carries the idea of quickly turning something that is said or done—no matter how innocent—into that which is obscene or suggestive. It is the filthy talk of a person who uses every word and circumstance to display his immoral wit. It is the stock-in-trade of the clever talk-show host who is never at a loss for sexual innuendo. But the low obscenity of silly talk and the “high” obscenity of coarse jesting come from the same kind of heart, the heart given over to moral filthiness.
In light of such clear teaching of God’s Word, it is strange that so many Christians not only discuss but laugh and joke with impunity about almost every form of sexual intimacy, corruption, and perversion. But God’s standard is clear: there must be no filthiness or silly talk, or coarse jesting which is not fitting.
This is particularly grievous behavior when we are in mixed company.
Miscellaneous Forms of Speech to Consider
Obviously there are multiple other forms of speech that we can allow to creep into our lives that can cripple our testimony for the Lord and open us up to the influence of the enemy. We should be ever vigilant to ask the Lord to put a guard over our mouth (Psalm 141:3-4).
A listing for consideration for what we need to watch for:
- Critical Speech—Negative comments about people that do not need to be said.
- Cursing & Swearing
- Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain
- Slang Words
- Reviling—Angry and abusive language patterns.
- Hasty Speech—Speaking and giving a judgment before all of the details of a matter is known.
- Vain/Proud Speech—Concerned with the state of life one may enjoy.
- Flattery—Insincere praise or accolades given to someone for ulterior means.
- Scoffing or Scornful
To Be Continued. . .