5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:5–6, NKJV)
Wisdom is the application of known truth, at the right time and in the right measure. It is the use of spiritual discernment, in love and knowledge, to advance the excellent things of righteousness that glorify God and approve us in His sight (Philippians 1:9-11). When we flavor our words with graciousness we walk in wisdom by making the most of our opportunities toward the lost. Like food seasoned with salt, wisdom learns when and how to answer those who are outside of Christ (as well as fellow Christians) so that our opportunity to teach and persuade others is maximized. Put simply, we have an obligation to give gracious answers to others. Wisdom knows this, and helps us speak so as to enhance, not disrupt, our chance to communicate truth to others. Unless we season our words with grace we fail to redeem our opportunity to help someone follow Jesus.
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, NKJV)
Acceptable profanity has reached an appalling level in America. Profane language is common place in the home and on the job. It is used in classrooms (from teachers as well as students), on social media, in popular music, movies, television and the internet. Just about everywhere someone is talking, profanity is given a place. Profanity adds nothing constructive to a conversation. Indeed, it distracts from it. Profane speech does not enhance clearer, more concise communication. It is spoken casually and mindlessly, as filler without context and without character. It is profoundly meaningless, useless and rotten (“corrupt”). Profanity does it “impart grace” to those who hear it, nor does it bring honor to the person who uses it. It disrespects God and shows contempt for others. Its companions are often anger and wrath (Eph. 4:31). Let us remember that our words show what is in our hearts. Jesus said that. And, He said our words will either justify or condemn us in the last day of judgment (Matt. 12:33-37). We must take great care to control our hearts, to control our tongues and avoid corrupt words.
Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:20, NKJV)
Do you know someone who seems to be an “expert” on just about every subject that comes up? Give him an opening, and he will be sure you know it! He will tell you the best car to buy, the best food to eat, the best place to live, the best…everything! And, the alternatives are always inferior – because he knows what is best! Except for the occasional renaissance man and woman, it is much wiser to be deliberate in choosing our words before we speak. People will soon tune out from listening to the person if they believe that person’s high opinion of himself drives most everything he says. Carefully choose your words, for it will be words “fitly spoken” that convey value and wisdom (Prov. 25:11). The fool is rash and rapid with his words, causing disruption and disturbance in his wake. By contrast, inspiration instructs us to “let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6).
34 “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” (Matthew 12:34–35, NKJV)
Our heart is the source of our words, expressing what is in our heart. Jesus is quite emphatic that good words do not proceed from an evil heart. Conversely, a good heart does not speak evil things. We deceive ourselves if we think we can speak evil things and yet lay claim to having a good heart. So, we must “either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit” (Matt. 12:33). Be careful of the words you speak. They define who you are. Your heart is known by your words, and by them you either will be justified or condemned in the day of judgment (Matt. 12:36-37).
11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? (James 4:11–12, NKJV)
James, the “bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”, warns us not to slander our brethren. Backbiting and malicious words must not characterize how we speak of each other. Ironically, some false teachers run to this passage attempting to find shelter against being publicly identified or marked for their divisive error. Paul said to “note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). Paul is not advising us to use evil speech or to misjudge a brother. Neither is Paul contradicted by James, whose prohibition is against evil misrepresentation, not accurate identification. On the one hand, we must carefully identify brethren who teach divisive and false doctrine (so they can be avoided), while at the same time avoiding malicious, evil speech. As James previously noted, such tongue control is a mark of spiritual maturity (Jas. 3:1-12).