The Power of Speech

In Ephesians 4:25-32, Paul briefly addresses several matters of personal conduct — a variety of do’s and don’ts for our relation­ships. Reading this passage recently, I was struck by how many things on this list primarily involve our speech.

Some are obvious, of course: falsehood (verse 25), unwhole­some words (verse 29), slander (verse 31). But these are not all. Consider: there may be plenty of ways to express bitterness, wrath, clamor, and malice (verse 31), but the handiest tool for all of them is the tongue. And what of Paul’s admonition, “Be angry, and yet do not sin…do not give the devil an opportunity” (verses 26-27)? Isn’t the first temptation of anger to say something we shouldn’t?

On the flip side, the tongue is also the ideal vehicle for many of the positive commands given here. “Speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor” (verse 25). “[Speak] 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” (verse 29). And what better way to express a heart that is kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving (verse 32)?

Truly, “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). It has the power to build up or tear down, the power to strengthen or destroy. Use it carefully.