“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.”
The next behavior change Paul instructs us to make is: From careless, unwholesome language to edifying language. The Greek word for “evil” in this verse is sapros, and it means “unwholesome.” It refers to that which is corrupt or foul; it was used of rotten fruit, vegetables, and other spoiled food. Paul uses it to describe a way of speaking that comes from our old nature. It is a default-driven way of speaking and communicating.
A better translation of this verse is simply, “Let no rotten talk come out of your mouths.”
When we are discipline-driven and speak from our new nature in Christ, we speak with wisdom and power. We say the right thing, at the right time, and in the right way. Paul tells us that our speech should “fit the occasion.” Therefore, we need to develop the discipline and skill of communicating the most effective way “to fit the occasion.”
Paul also says our speech should “impart grace to those who hear.” The “grace” needed, of course, depends on the specifics of the situation. Sometimes the grace needed is gentle and soft. Other times the grace needed is challenging, hard, and painful. Remember when Jesus used a whip to drive the money changers out of the temple in Jerusalem? His words fit the occasion and imparted grace. And it was painful. Because that is what the situation called for.
Our lives are full of talking and communicating. We talk to family, friends, colleagues, customers, and our teams and organizations. There are few things we do more often that are more important than how we talk. We use words to define, explain, and interpret the world around us. Our words carry and express our thoughts and feelings. We use words to express our observations and define our experiences. We use words to connect with people and convey important messages.
The way we communicate has a profound impact on the people around us. Proverbs 18:21 says that “life and death are in the power of the tongue.” The Message bible translates it this way: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.”
In other words, the way you communicate can be a source of life to other people, or it can be a source of death. You can use your words to encourage and heal, or you can use your words to discourage and hurt. Your words can bring peace, or they can bring strife.
Paul is communicating the same message here in Ephesians. Sapros talk is unwholesome. It’s like rotten fruit. It doesn’t bring life; instead, it causes decay. That is because it comes from the old nature and has been distorted by sin and death. Words that come from the new nature are messages that edify, build up, and give life.
Let’s be disciplined in how we talk and communicate, and let’s be givers of life.