One Verse, Two Issues

If you cannot view the accompanying image, here is what it says: “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 Ephesians 4:29”  This meme pricked my conscience.  I have learned a bit about Lashon Hara, or “Evil Tongue.”  (Watch for an in-depth post on Lashon Hara.) Talking other people down, whether it is through rumors or gossip, is a bad habit of mine.  Though I am now aware of this problem, the habit has yet to be completely broken.

I used to believe that as long as the words were true, there was nothing wrong with bad-mouthing others.  Honestly, using even the truth to prop myself up above my brothers is still a sin.  It can be compared to the “perfect” child who rubs his siblings’ disobedience in their faces.  He believes that since he has not earned as much punishment, he must be made of finer clay.  To the parent, the “perfect” one’s behavior causes more grief.  The parent knows that all his children are weak, in one way or another, and need his guidance to become well-disciplined adults.  One child scorning and withholding grace from the others, as though he is their authority, burdens a parent’s heart.  The parent would rather his child treated siblings as they are – equals.

In one of his many parables, Yashua (Jesus) described a king who forgave a servant’s enormous debt. The servant then refused to forgive a fellow servant’s smaller debt.  The king who had shown so much compassion to the first servant heard of this behavior, was angry the him, and required the enormous debt in full. (Book of Matthew 18:21-35)  This parable addressed forgiveness in particular, but it reminds me that each of us owe the King of the Universe our lives for the wrongs we have committed.  How can I look down on another of His children, as though I have never wronged Him myself? As though my pride is an idol?  Obviously, I must observe what He has told me about right and wrong and discern accordingly.  To usurp His judgment seat, though, is to say I am god.

Some time passed, and cutting the “unwholesome talk” was no longer foremost in my mind.  Ephesians 4:29 scrolled up in my social media, so I posted it as a reminder to myself and an encouragement to others.  Usually, those sort of images get a handful of “likes” and no comments.  On this one, a friend commented, “Question on this. So I think this applies to when we would communicate poorly about another without edification. Do you think it applies to even talking our our struggles?” 

I saw what she meant.  Some people believe that if they admit to negative feelings, they must have little faith.  The Psalms are full of King David crying out to his God about his troubles.  He was still called “a man after My own heart.”  David brought his pain to God and told him how he felt. He did not deny God’s ability to save him, but opened his heart to Him.  After his lamentations, he always resolved that God would be his Help and Defender.  Faith does not mean that you feel no pain, but that you have a hope despite the pain.

Others in my community believe that it is evil to speak of negative things at all.  If you wish to vent about your troubles to them, they will not validate your struggles, but deflect your issue and gloss it over with positives.  Rather than using the Truth to grapple with problems, they try to use it as a child’s blanket to hide themselves from the monsters of the night.  Our faith is our shield, our Savior is our hiding place in the storm, but He also equipped us with the Sword of the Spirit with which to fight.

I wanted to respond to my friend with these opinions; I thought it best to research this verse in Ephesians to be sure I addressed the issue at hand properly.

My findings were as follows:
  • The King James Version uses this terminology: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may administer grace to unto the hearers.” I don’t believe this means to keep our mouths shut about our struggles. Paul also encouraged us to bear one another’s burdens, after all. (Galatians 6:2)
  •  Corrupt: Strongs#G4550 1. rotten, putrefied 2. corrupted by one and no longer fit for use, worn out 3. of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless
  •  Good: Strongs#G18 1.of good constitution or nature 2.useful, salutary 3. good, pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy 4 . excellent, distinguished 5. upright, honourable
  • Edifying: G3619 1. (the act of) building, building up 2. metaphorically edifying, edification a) the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness 3. a building
  • Grace: G5485 1. grace a) that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech 2. good will, loving-kindness, favour . . .
 I responded to my friend with some of these references and I wrote, “So I see that we should not speak rotten and useless things, but good, uplifting, and – when speaking of the hard things – make sure it’s useful and we maintain a spirit of honor.”
How do we strike the balance?  How do we speak well of our neighbors, treat them lovingly, and still be honest about our feelings and struggles?  “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:6  Moment by moment, ask the Heavenly Father for guidance.  Now that you are aware of these lessons, let him direct you in His paths in each situation you find yourself today.  Bring your troubles to Him first.  The Holy Spirit will help you obey, if you ask.  No man-made theology will “get it right” for you.  Let Him lead you in His ways.
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