Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29, ESV.
Paul called the church in verses 23-34 “to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self.” He illustrated what that would look like by issuing specific commands to integrity in speech, self-control over anger, and an honest and generous work ethic. He concludes this list with verse 29, a call for gracious speech.
The words that come out of our mouths should not tear down but build up, suit the situation, and be gifts of grace. Dishonest, unkind, or vulgar words only serve to tear down (literally, bring rottenness to) the listener. Truth, kindness, and wholesome language builds up. When Paul speaks of talk that “fits the occasion,” he is likely indicating that these words improve the situation for the listener. They are words that sweeten the aroma instead of adding a stench. They put out fires instead of starting them. The listener should walk away from the conversation having just experienced God’s grace in the words spoken.
As we bring this command forward a couple of millennia to our day, I believe we need to add “from your thumbs or fingers” to “out of your mouths.” Paul’s words are focused primarily on the words spoken by Christians to Christians. Even so, I cannot imagine him isolating this exhortation from Christians who put their words out there on the internet for anyone to read. When our words are on a screen, we need to take extra care. The artificial courage of the keypad does not make obedience to Ephesians 4:29 easier. Every post should be written as though it is a word being spoken face to face with every potential reader. We must eliminate words that tear down or do little but throw gasoline on the fires of controversy. We must build up and offer grace. My experience may differ from yours, but there seem to be too many examples online of professing believers doing just the opposite.
May God forgive us for our disobedience to His Word in our speech and grant each of us control of our tongues and our thumbs, on this day and every day. That is my prayer.