Recently I read some words in the Bible that challenged me in a new way. They’re from the letter that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, now in modern Turkey. I was reading The Message version at the time and this portion was slightly different from other translations of the Bible.
It reads: Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
It was that last phrase that caught my attention and I began to think about gift-giving words. Do I really value them? Can they be bought?
God loves these gift-words so much that he called his only Son The Word. He sent him to tell us how much he wants a conversation with us; a relationship that we can’t buy for ourselves. He set the example of gift-giving words.
I examined my life and the everyday things I said. I regularly pondered the significance of what Paul wrote: each word a gift.
I’m not in the habit of swearing or telling off-colour jokes, but I wondered if I completely understood how much God values words? Was it customary for me to give a gift of praise and then take it back by adding a negative, critical proviso? What kind of gift is that? Soon I began to see myself doing it all the time! I hadn’t realised how often I did it!
Renovating a house while living on-site can be an opportunity for spiritual growth! I’ve tried to be patient when things progress more slowly than I’d like, but sometimes my perfectionist nature comes to the fore.
‘Yes, that looks great’, I’d say to my husband. ‘You’re really clever! But it’s a pity about the gap around here! I wonder what people will think of that in years to come.’ Well, those. words. didn’t. need to be added!
How hard it must be on a patient worker who is doing his best. Although not trained as a builder, he’s versatile enough to paint, lay flooring, build shelves, make a brick wall, measure and apply endless architraves and skirting boards and fit new cupboards in a kitchen that isn’t square! How often had my words been an actual gift to him, something that he could cherish. I’d given him many words of affirmation, but were they regularly negated by my superfluous additions?
This little salt bowl and spoon reminds me of some similar words in another letter from Paul to the Colossian church. He wrote, Let your conversation be with grace, as though seasoned with salt.
Grace means an undeserved gift. So Eugene Peterson was right in using that word ‘gift’ in The Message! ‘Say only what helps, each word a gift!’
The more I’ve thought about this, the more I understand how often my conversation falls short of God’s standard. Only he can change my sloppy habits. And he’ll use his Word, the Bible, to do it.
My prayer is: ‘Dear Lord, help me to see that I need you so I can truly be a gift-giver with the words I use. Show me creative ways to share your gift words’.