Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Ephesians 4:29
Grace is one of those words where people understand its meaning, in general, but are hard-pressed to portray a clear definition. Some make an acrostic, “God’s riches at Christ’s expense,” or say that it means His goodness to us. Others say it’s God’s undeserved favor, and so on. I heard a definition at one point that sounds a bit technical, but it may help some.
Grace is God’s revelation of Christ to our heart, given in such a way that we are changed to become like Him.
Look back at our text, Ephesians 4:29. The Greek for “corrupt” literally means, “non useful, spoiling, non life giving” and is mentioned only one other context, when Jesus was teaching metaphorically saying, “a good tree cannot bring forth BAD fruit” with regards to our words. What Paul is after, from the heart of God, saying that our mouth, our words, need to reveal Jesus. Not only reveal Him but do it in such a way that the person who hears is built up to become like Him, always, and in every situation.
You might hear that and sit back a little seeing a tall mountain of reasoning or rational for why this is not always possible. Stop walking in the council of the ungodly! Please!
Let me put it into a context. We all deserve hell. We do not deserve anything good. But Jesus came in grace and truth to do something only God could do, take our place! He was perfect, He could not sin, nor did He know sin. And this sinless man, Christ Jesus, became sin (1 Corinthians 5:21) that he might take away the sin of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 3:5). He took upon Himself everything bad so that we could have everything good from God. He went to hell and took the keys of death, hell, and the grave (Revelation 1:18), so that we could have eternal life and be with Him forever. All this to say, He gave to us what we could never earn or deserve.
What Paul is aiming for, is the speech of heaven, God’s love language is grace. When my son does something he isn’t supposed to that he has been instructed not to do, I am faced with a choice. Do I “tell it like it is” and focus on what he did wrong? Will telling someone what they did wrong edify them and empower them to be like Christ? Jesus came and said, “I am the way…” (John 14:6). He spent His time and efforts showing us the Father (John 14:9). He edified and imparted grace to all whom he spoke.
Whatever edifies, imparts grace. When someone is in the wrong, when someone is engrossed in sin, in their lowest moments – affirm them. Tell them how much they are loved. Corrupt words, non useful words are words that focus on the wrong. Lift them with your words, speak to them in such a way that your words cause them to be more like Christ.
Let me share with you an example or two from my family. My son was playing like a cat, pouncing at the couch. He clawed at the couch and put a several inch scratch on the seat cushion. My wife spoke to him and told him he needed to tell his daddy what he had just done.
Gripped with fear, he collapsed to the floor and began wailing in tears. He was again asked to come talk to me, and he got up to come see me. I was in the other room, but could hear something had happened that was an issue.
He came to me, crying and could barely talk. All he could say was, “I ruined it, I ruined it…”
I picked him up and held him as we walked back to the family room. I asked him what he was supposed to tell me and set him down. he showed me the scratch and was trebling in shame and fear. I looked at my wife and then at my son. I picked him back up and asked, “You are afraid, aren’t you?” He nodded to confirm. I began to weep and I said, “Son, there is no fear in love, and I have somehow failed to show you enough love to overcome this fear.” I told him he was not going to be disciplined for the damage.
“All I want you to know is how proud I am of you, how much I love you…” All I spoke were words of edification. Words, that in that moment would open his eyes and heart to see Jesus.
Recently my son came home from Kindergarten and was distraught. I took him aside and asked him what was the matter. He talked about someone teasing him at school and how much it hurt him. He was corrected by the teacher for lashing out back at the other student, and was frustrated. I stood up from his bed, where we were sitting and reached into my pocket. I took out my hand as a fist and opened it up to him and said, “here, take this. It will heal you and make it all better.”
Seeing nothing in my hand, he smiled and said, “Dad, what is it?”
I responded with a soft voice, “it is a handful of God’s grace.” I told him, “You have grace. Let grace work in you and bring healing.” We prayed and God restored his joy.
God is grace, and He is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4). Let your heart be filled with grace (that is another blog, for another day) so that your words will edify and lift those who hear them to be like Christ in every and in all situations.