29 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, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
I suppose I will first address the common use of this verse. I believe that our society has grown to one of cutting words. Even in loving relationships, we “joke” with each other by picking on each other and cutting each other down in some fashion. Whether it’s poking fun at something someone does or what they are wearing, reminding them of something “stupid” they did in the past, or just simply making something up that sounds funny; we have grown into a habit of cutting people down instead of lifting each other up. Proverbs 18 lays it out plainly:
21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Lining up with Ephesians 4:29, we see that as we strive to live as a follower of Christ, we are to only speak when it actually brings benefit to others. Have you ever known someone who likes to talk just to “hear themselves speak”? Are you one of those people? I know I am sometimes; I just can’t shut up! I overheard a conversation the other day about people who are “of few words.” They were saying how people like that are usually more carefully listened to when they speak, because if they choose to speak, it usually means they have something important and insightful to say. I reflected on that a moment and realized how much I admire that. Now if only I could wait to speak until what I have to say is truly important.
There are more references in Proverbs to speech and the power of the tongue:
Proverbs 10:19-21 19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise. 20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, The heart of the wicked is worth little. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of understanding.
Proverbs 10:31-32 31 The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out. 32 The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.
Proverbs 12:17-19 17 He who speaks truth tells what is right, But a false witness, deceit. 18 There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing. 19 Truthful lips will be established forever, But a lying tongue is only for a moment.
Proverbs 21:23 23 He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.
Proverbs 31:26 26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
These are just the few verses I found in Proverbs, there are many more like it throughout the bible. It’s obvious that what we say matters. How often do we pay attention to what we say to ourselves? I k now I have grown into the habit of making fun of myself for others to laugh, but I never really take note of how that actually affects my own self esteem and spiritual standing. My wife will sometimes say, “Don’t talk about my husband like that!”
Do we lift ourselves up with what we say or do we cut ourselves down? You can see plainly that what we say matters and has the strength to build or destroy. Are we destroying ourselves?