The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. (Luke 6:45)
It’s essential therefore that we guard the condition of our heart (Proverbs 4:23) and that we also exercise discretion in our speech. The Apostle Paul shows us how to have winsome speech,
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:6)
Paul writes, let your speech (literally your words) always be with grace. My speech can be graceful when I want it to be but sometimes I don’t feel like being graceful – Paul doesn’t give us any exceptions. The word picture is “seasoned with salt”. In Paul’s day salt was a valuable commodity and was used as a preservative as well as to season food. That’s what grace does to our speech, it keeps it from being corrupt (an example is Ephesians 4:29) and grace appropriately flavors our speech.
Paul goes on to say that you will know how to respond to each person. Every encounter you have is an opportunity to add value to someone’s life. C.S. Lewis reminds us in The Weight of Glory, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
I was going to the store and I asked Jeanne if she needed anything – that can be a dangerous question, don’t ask it if you’re not willing to follow through. She asked me if I would exchange a pair of Capri’s for her. I saw my expeditious trip turn into a major event, I reluctantly said yes. As I was waiting in the looooong line at Customer Service I could see the lady who was working threre was having a hard day. People were asking her questions, the phone was ringing, and this long line of people wanted her to solve their problem (it was so bad this could have qualified as one of the levels in Dante’s Inferno). When my turn came I explained to her the situation and I said to her, “When I face rough days I find encouragement from the Bible verse that says, ‘Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.'” She smiled and thanked me and said, “I needed that.” As I finished my transaction she laughed and said, “The next time you’re in here stop by and see me and bring me some more of those sweet words!” Take some time to let your speech always be with grace! Jesus reveals the significance of your words,
But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37)
Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University