πᾶς λόγος σαπρὸς ἐκ τοῦ στόματος ὑμῶν μὴ ἐκπορευέσθω, ἀλλὰ εἴ τις ἀγαθὸς πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν τῆς χρείας, ἵνα δῷ χάριν τοῖς ἀκούουσιν. Let no rotten word come out from your mouth, but if anything is good for building up the need, in order that it might give grace to the ones who hear.
Paul is continuing his exhortation section in light of the new person that is found in Christ. He exhorts his listeners and readers to guard their tongues. First, he says, “Let no rotten word come out from your mouth.” Rotten does not equate to bad language, curse words, or swear words necessarily. The word σαπρὸς when used in a moral context deals with that which is harmful. Paul is commanding that his readers and listeners not use words that are harmful. This concept is further amplified in the next clause. Additionally, by using πᾶς, Paul is emphasizing his command, essentially saying, “There must not be a single harmful word coming out from your mouth.” Second, he says, “. . . but if anything is good for building up the need.” When we read it literally, this clause appears to be awkward. The word χρεία means need, but in this context, it is an objective genitive, and it bears the idea of necessity. Paul exhorts his readers and listeners to speak that which is good for building up wherever necessary. Why? The purpose of speaking good for the building up of the church is to benefit those who hear the words. Paul desires for the listeners to receive grace. He has a concern for the general body of Christ. The words are to be spoken for the edification of the body. But Paul also has a concern for those who hear the words. Words are powerful and have a mighty effect on those who hear them. Paul desires for blessing, not harm, to come forth from the words that are spoken.
Do not let a single harmful word come out from your mouth, but instead speak whatever is good for edification wherever it is necessary, in order that what is spoken might give grace to those who hear.
All too often we let our words get the best of us. It has been said that the quickest way to slit our throats is to use our tongue, so we ought to keep it in its sheath. This task is a challenge. But it is an important challenge that cannot be overlooked. Too easily do we destroy friendships with our words. We say something harmful about a friend to someone else; that person then spreads what we have said. Then the friend in question becomes destroyed. It spreads like wildfire and it is not quickly mended. Paul’s words are true for all general circumstances, whether you belong inside or outside of the church. But in the church we must particularly be careful. We do not want to harm other members of the body of Christ, do we? We do not want to be responsible for causing other Christians to lose faith, do we? No, we do not, and instead of harming, we should do everything we can to build up the body with our words. We do want to encourage each other, do we not? We do want to pray for other Christians, do we not? Our words are important; they are indeed powerful. Therefore, the content of our words must be kept in check. We need to put aside any words that are harmful for the body of Christ. Instead, we need to use our words to build up the body. Not only that, our words should benefit those who hear them. The next time someone says something negative about a friend in your church, whether a fellow believer or a guest, interrupt the gossip, do not let it continue, and interject with a positive, encouraging word about that person. Actively seek to edify the body of the church with your words. Do not idly stand by. Be careful with your words. Use them for the glory of God.