Counseling Through Ephesians 4:29

Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

My guess is that on any given day, hundreds of thousands of words are spoken at Vision of Hope. Between the 8 staff, 10-12 interns, 18-24 residents, and any number of daily volunteers, there is a lot of talking!  We need to know and live out Ephesians 4:29 so we can honor the Lord with our speech and live at peace with one another.

God commands that no unwholesome word should come out of our mouths. That’s none, zero; absolutely nothing unwholesome has any right to come off of your tongue.  God’s Word leaves no room for corrupt or destructive speech in the believer’s life.  Besides being wholesome, we are also commanded to only speak words that edify.  This includes words that build up, that encourage others, that improve the situation or offer instruction for improvement to others.  We are often quick to identify the unwholesome speech of others, but slow to recognize it in ourselves.  I think this is a passage every believer could benefit from memorizing and meditating on.  I want my counselees to grow in thinking about their speech and begin to realize when they need to repent so they can put on wholesome, healing, edifying words.  If a person is serious about obeying this verse, than she will need to be on guard against all forms of unwholesome speech, including gossip, complaining, harsh sarcasm, teasing, hurtful jabs, caustic remarks, sassy replies, manipulation, smart aleck answers, demeaning words, whining, criticizing, unthankfulness, controlling demands or self-serving conversation.  Regardless of what the other person said or did to you that elicited your unwholesome reply, you are still responsible for obeying this command, and in need of repentance for any response that was not wholesome and edifying.

However, God doesn’t simply call us to think about the content of our speech, but also the context. Our speech should build others up “according to the need of the moment.” Out of love for my listeners, I need to think about their need in that moment, and then speak according to that need.  There are times to instruct, reprove, deal with problems and correct for sure, but not every moment is right for such speech.  For instance, problem solving with your roommate maybe shouldn’t happen first thing in the morning while she is still groggy, or last thing at night when everyone is tired.  Talking to someone about her ungrateful attitude can wait until after she has had time to calm down and process the difficult family phone call she just received. Trying to address a concern as someone is walking out of the door for work is also poor timing. Starting a serious conversation over texting may not fit the need of the moment. If the time of the moment simply does not allow for a discussion of the concerns and edification you are wanting to share with the other person, then consider waiting until you will have the time to fully communicate in such an important conversation.

Finally, God’s Word tells us that each word we speak should give grace to the hearers. Not only do we need to think about the particular person we are addressing, but we also need to consider those around us who are also hearing our speech.  As we think about the person we’re talking to and others who may hear, we are commanded to speak words that give grace.

I find this verse very convicting personally, and have found that I need to judge my speech through the grid of this verse. If I take time to evaluate my speech against Ephesians 4:29, I often realize that I spoke words that were not wholesome, edifying and grace-filled, or were delivered in a moment that was very inconsiderate and unloving, and that I need to seek forgiveness from others and the Lord. This brief verse has a high call for our speech. When we compare our speech to this verse, it is clear we all have room to grow and areas in which we need to walk in repentance.

Jennifer Cantu
Jennifer Cantu works as a counselor and Shift Supervisor at Vision of Hope. She received her biblical counseling certification from ACBC in 2014. In addition to working at VOH, Jennifer counsels women through Faith Church’s counseling ministry. She is very thankful for ministry opportunities to help, teach and encourage women with God's Word.