Big Boy Thinking

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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:29-32

As we review these verses, it becomes pretty clear that Paul is addressing the role of self in our lives. Right off the bat, notice what he says about “unwholesome talk”; he does not say “Don’t cuss or you’re going to hell.” No, he tells us that our speech should be for the benefit of others. Yet he goes even further than that when he says our speech should benefit others according to “their needs.”

Who does that? Don’t most people talk about their own needs, express their feelings to resolve their issues, let you know how they feel? Don’t the shrinks tell us we need to express our feelings…?

Unwholesome talk…?

I’ve often said in these posts that following Christ is counter-intuitive; this is one of those times.

He goes on, and raises a second question: What exactly is he saying is grieving to the Holy Spirit of God? Maybe we should come back to that one.

In the final piece of this text, Paul tells us to get rid of “bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” OK Paul, now you’re sucking all of the fun out of everything!

What are we to replace these with? Kindness, compassion and forgiveness…

It’s beginning to sound like “love one another” isn’t it? Can we love one another if we are filled with bitterness and rage?


Are slander and malice expressions of love?


How about anger and brawling; are they expressions of love?


Now let’s try kindness, compassion and forgiveness; are these expressions of love?


Did you notice that all of the “no’s” were self-focused? Did you notice that the “yes” ones were outwardly focused for the benefit of others?

Yeah, I thought so. OK back to speech…

We all know that Jesus taught us to set our own interests aside and put the interests of others ahead of our own; what does this sound like when we speak? Is our speech grieving to the Holy Spirit within us?

I’ll let you answer those on your own.


Yesterday, I received a great comment on another post asking the question of what I would call spiritual maturity. To me, the answer is fairly simple: deal with self. A mature Christian is one who puts others first… really. I don’t mean to help out when you have time or when you feel like it, or so you will be recognized. I mean really change our orientation and worldview.

Well, I said it was simple, I didn’t say it was easy.  One thing is for sure: we won’t get there by following the ways of this world, and with that, this passage just slipped back into Paul’s larger context!


About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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11 Responses to Big Boy Thinking

  1. paulfg says:

    “according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”
    Bullseye Don.
    Makes me stop and think a little more than usual today.
    (sort of links with the “recruitment” thinking still rolling around my head)
    “According To Their Needs”
    Thank you.

  2. Megan says:

    Reblogged this on Amazed By Grace and commented:
    I’ve been wanting to write about how we as Christians should always be seeking to love each other..but this awesome post took the words right out of my mouth!! Great post! Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Tom says:

    What? You mean put other’s needs before my personal very much needed needs? Just like Jesus did, putting us before Himself. Great post!

  4. I never gave attention to the “according to their needs” part till now… Thank you for the great post 🙂

  5. Pingback: Big Boy Thinking | The Crusty Old Sailor Speaks

  6. I always thought what he meant by “unwholesome talk” was gossip. Conversation that does no good, but whose intent is simply to belittle someone else. These days we have made it into an art form, and a television staple. What would “reality” shows be without gossip? How about afternoon talk shows? How many magazines and internet sites/articles are nothing but gossip? How better would people get along if gossip disappeared and only what is beneficial was spoken?

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