Words are powerful. They can build up. And they can tear down.
For this reason, Paul said,
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (29)
That word, “unwholesome,” could also be translated, “putrid.” Don’t led any “putrid” words come out of your mouth. What are putrid words? He tells us in verse 31. Words of bitterness. Words of rage. Words of slander. Words of malice.
These types of words grieve the Holy Spirit. Why? Because they tear apart the body of Christ. Again, remember the whole key to this passage is keeping the unity of the body. And we cannot do that when we are biting and devouring each other with our words (Galatians 5:15)
So what kind of words should come out of our mouths? “Only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Two key points here. First, we need to really be thoughtful about the words we speak. We need to look at the people around us and think about their needs. Too often we speak without thinking, and as a result cut and tear into the people around us. But if we take the time to think about the other person and what they need, we’re much less likely to do that.
Second, our words need to be full of grace. When it says, “that it may benefit those who listen,” it literally means, “that we may give grace to those who listen.”
What kinds of words are coming out of our mouths? Words of judgment? Words of accusation? Or words of grace?
But not only should our words express grace, so should our actions. Paul tells us in verse 32,
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
That’s not always easy. Some people are not easy to be kind and compassionate to. Some people are not easy to forgive. But here’s the thing: neither were we. We were “children of wrath,” and under God’s judgment. And yet God poured out his kindness and his compassion on us, forgiving us our sins.
So Paul tells us,
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (1-2)
When we live as his children, sharing his love and kindness to those around us, we become a fragrant offering to God just as Christ was when he offered himself on the cross for us.
And when we love others, even those difficult to love, we show ourselves to truly be God’s children. As we do so, that’s when we truly become one in him.
How about you? Are you showing yourself to be a child of God each day, loving and building up those around you?