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
I have often thought of unwholesome as referring to profanity. A while back, I took a closer look at Ephesians and learned a few things. This is not a prohibition against one type of word. This is a contrast.
Good words and not-good words
Literally, this is a contrast of words that give grace and words that produce rot and decay. The rotten, or unwholesome, words have an implied definition in that they are not the type of words that benefit or give grace.
What clued me in that this was a contrast was this entire section is filled with them. A contrast is a literary tool that helps you to see the author’s point more clearly.
An easy contrast to spot is in Eph 4:28, where the contrast is between good and bad in terms of action –
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
In BOTH verses, the well-being of the other person is the goal.
You can do good with your words and your hands in terms of benefiting others.
Sometimes words from Christians are not gracious or beneficial.
Words can be contaminated by anger, pride and sin.
Words can be impacted by the emotions of the moment such as fear, anger, resentment.
Your words have the power to bless people or curse people.
Think of your words like a tool. You can use them constructively and build people up. OR… you can use them destructively and tear people down. Notice the very different impact that words can have:
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
If you want to change your words, you need to realize that your words don’t begin in your mouth. Your words begin in your heart.
Out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
If you want to change your words, ask God to change your heart.