(J.R. Miller, “Christian Conversation” 1898)
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“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34
Hence we must get our heart right if we would speak words that are Christlike. A bitter heart cannot give out sweet words–nor can an impure heart speak wholesome pure words.
We have suggestions in the New Testament as to the kind of speech that is worthy of a redeemed life. Paul has some very plain words on the subject: “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 impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29. That is, no word should be spoken which does not . . .
help to build up character,
make those who hear it better,
inspire some good thought, some holy feeling, some kindly act,
or put some touch of beauty upon the life.
A Christian’s words should “impart grace to the hearers.”
That is, they should impart blessing in some way. We all know people whose words have this quality. They are not always exhorting, preaching, or talking religiously–and yet we never speak with them without being the better for it. Their simplest words do us good. They give cheer, courage, and hope. We feel braver and stronger after a little conversation with them, even after a moment’s greeting on the street.
In another place, Paul says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6. This means graceful speech, not merely as to its manner–but also as to its quality. It must be speech such as Christ Himself would use if He were in our place, and we know that every word of His was a holy seed. Our speech is to be “full of grace”–it is to be true, reverent, helpful, inspiring.
Our speech should be “seasoned with salt”–that is, it should be pure and clean.
Salt preserves from decay and putridity. The Christian’s speech should have in it the divine quality of holiness, and its effect should be cleansing and purifying. Someone speaks of the words of Jesus as a handful of spices cast into this world’s bitter waters to sweeten them. Every Christian’s words should have like influence in society, wherever they are spoken.
The seasoning is important–our speech is to be “seasoned with salt.” Love is salt. Truth is salt. Our speech should be always kindly. Therefore it should be without bitterness, without malice, without unlovingness in any form. The seasoning should be salt. Some people use pepper instead–and pepper is sharp, biting, pungent. Their speech is full of sarcasm, of censure, of bitterness, of words that hurt and burn. This is not Christlike speech.
We should never be content to talk even five minutes with another–without saying at least a word or two that may do good, that may give a helpful impulse or kindle an upward aspiration.
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
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