“Big Boy” Thinking

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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:29-32

As we review these verses, it becomes pretty clear that Paul is addressing the role of “self” in our lives. Right off the bat, notice what he says about “unwholesome talk”; he does not say “Don’t cuss or you’re going to hell.” No, he tells us that our speech should be for the benefit of others. Yet he goes even further than that when he says our speech should benefit others according to “their needs.”

Who does that? Don’t most people talk about their own needs, express their feelings to resolve their issues, let you know how they feel? Don’t the shrinks tell us we need to express our feelings…?

Unwholesome talk…?

I’ve often said in these posts that following Christ is counter-intuitive; this is one of those times.

He goes on, and raises a second question: What does he tell us is grieving to the Holy Spirit of God? Maybe we should come back to that one.

In the final piece of this text, Paul tells us to get rid of “bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”

What are we to replace these with? Kindness, compassion and forgiveness…

It’s beginning to sound like “love one another” isn’t it? Can we love one another if we are filled with bitterness and rage?


Are slander and malice expressions of love?


How about anger and brawling; are they expressions of love?


Now let’s try kindness, compassion and forgiveness; are these expressions of love?


Did you notice that all of the “no’s” were self-focused? Did you notice that the “yes” ones were outwardly focused for the benefit of others?

Yeah, I thought so. OK back to speech…

We all know that Jesus taught us to set our own interests aside and put the interests of others ahead of our own; what does this sound like when we speak? Is our speech grieving to the Holy Spirit within us?

I’ll let you answer those on your own.

A couple of sections back we spoke of spiritual maturity. To me, spiritual maturity is a fairly simple concept: deal with self. A mature Christian is one who puts others first… really. I don’t mean to help out when you have time or when you feel like it, or so you will be recognized. I mean really change our orientation and worldview.

Well, I said it was simple, I didn’t say it was easy.  One thing is for sure: we won’t get there by following the ways of this world, and with that, this passage just slipped back into Paul’s larger context.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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5 Responses to “Big Boy” Thinking

  1. changeofheartjournal says:

    Hello Don, I know that this is about watching ourselves and our own behaviour, but what are we to say to family and friends who blaspheme, use coarse language or cruel and smutty humour?
    This is a situation I find myself in. Should we ignore it and lead by example?

    • Don Merritt says:

      Excellent question. Of course, each personality and situation will be a little different, but leading by example is always in order- Jesus certainly did that. Yet there are times when something really should be said and in those situations, a little kindness goes a long way. Something like, “Hey, that’s not cool, come on.” Seems to get a better result than one of my grand speeches, particularly when said only to the one who needs to hear it and not as a speech to the entire room.

      • changeofheartjournal says:

        Well said! It’s also about the behaviour and not the man (ad hominem)
        If you criticise the man instead of the behaviour, how can the man change! There will be no hope left to him.
        It’s also about remembering that Christianity isn’t a stick to beat people into “good behaviour”. When we fall into this trap, not only are we going against Jesus’ teachings (and sinning) but also giving the one true faith a bad name.

        Another truism that I have encountered recently is “Why should we expect unbelievers to act like believers?”
        We can lead by example or give gentle counsel in love but beyond that, I guess we must also learn when to shake the dust off our feet and move on.

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