Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
What's the worst thing you said to someone in the past 24 hours? Or maybe it wasn't what you said as much as it was how you said it. (I've been told that makes a big difference.)
It's not easy to control our tongues. James says, "Every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:7-8). And again, he says "If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body" (James 3:2).Yet we are commanded in this passage to make our speech gracious. What exactly does that mean?
In the least it must mean that the way we speak to other people must reflect the grace that God has given us. When we have the right to be angry with them, we speak grace instead of anger. We speak to them with the gentleness and love that they don't deserve, because that is how God has spoken to us. When we have told them something over and over and over again but they're still are not getting it right (I'm looking at you parents and teachers); even then we should respond to them with patience and mercy. It means that we give them the benefit of the doubt so that our words cast them in the best possible light, not the worst.
It also means that the content of our speech ought to draw people to Jesus. Words like Christ, salvation, resurrection, and grace ought to be regular parts of our daily vocabulary, so that people can't really be around us without hearing pieces of the gospel. Our conversations ought to be "seasoned with salt." According to the ESV Study Bible this means that we ought to speak in an "interesting, stimulating, and wise way" that would commend the gospel to non-believers. Salt is a natural preservative of course, so I don't think it a stretch to assert that this means our speech ought to be free of the putrid, rotten subjects of conversation that our world so delights in. In other words, it's not just how we talk to people that matters, it is also what we talk about.
So how have you been doing over the last 24 hours? You can't control your tongue alone. James was right. "No human being can tame the tongue." But consider Jesus' words when in response to another task that is impossible for man to do alone. "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). Ask God for help. Think of one person you can focus on speaking life and grace to tomorrow. It may very well be a family member.
For further consideration...
- Daily vocabulary- Facebook recently started doing this thing where you can see what words pop up most often in your posts. I wonder if the Lord were to do the same for us. What would your most common words be? What words do you use the most? What is your daily vocabulary and what does that reveal about your character?
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:5-12)
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect... (I Peter 3:15)