What did you say?

How often have we heard someone ask that, especially when we’ve said the wrong thing? How often have we reminded our children to be careful of their words? How often have we heard words abused?

“Lots,” we could say, because abusive and indiscreet speech dot our social landscape, and often provide an unwanted backdrop to our lives. Even on public transportation or in a restaurant we are not immune from the abuses of someone’s tongue, words not even meant directly for our own ears.

A Christian’s speech is supposed to be different. The Apostle Paul says to the Colossian Christians of the first century, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” What does he mean?

If you have ever tasted a bland plate of spaghetti or bowl of soup, you will know immediately. We say, “Ooh! That needs salt!” And why? Because salt brings out the flavor of food, and gives it “zip.” Note that the salt is only a seasoning, not the predominant flavor–-who has not recoiled in horror when it seems that the saltshaker has been emptied into the soup?

But every cook knows the value of spices, to add interest and subtleties to food, and that is the analogy here. We are not to blabber mindlessly, but make our speech palatable, and memorable, by the use of wisdom, insight, humor, vocabulary, and tone of voice. In short, our speech should be stimulating, and worth hearing.

We know this because Paul goes on to say that the reason for careful speech is “so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Our testimony is at stake, and the Gospel itself, for words are the primary carrier of messages.

Years ago a famous lecturer titled one of his essays, “The One Thing You Can Not Hide.” Any guesses as to the subject? Once words are out of our mouths, we are known, for better or worse. Eventually, our words sell us out. May our mouths reflect God’s glory and hearts of love.

“A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
Proverbs 25:11

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