“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Colossians 4:6
When Jesus was among us, he taught us many principles. One of his important teachings was completely counter-cultural to his time. The Jews believed that certain foods would render them unclean, defiling their bodies yet Jesus called them to pay attention to the words springing out from within which defiled them much more. What an eye opener for us today! Our mouth can defile us not so much from what we consume as much as from what consumes our heart and comes out of them.
In short, Jesus was reminding us and pointing out that when our mouth utters words that wound, words of retribution, words to let others have a “piece of our mind” , we are really expressing what was birthed from our hearts.
When our words come from a seed of anger, bitterness, contempt, frustration, resentment or with the goal of bruising others, our speech reveals the root of the issue is not actually with the hearer of our words but with us. The root cause of our ill-speech is from a heart festering with evil, not fully surrendered to Jesus, lacking in love, understanding and grace.
Colossians 4:6 invites us to live according to a new standard, uttering words that bless the recipient and any witnesses rather than cause them harm or even grieve the Holy Spirit.
So how should we speak?
Always with grace. Seasoned with salt.
In essence, our hearer may not deserve words of blessings or life (that is according to us), yet God wants us to extend the same grace we received from Him to others. That’s undeserved and guess what? That is the very meaning and definition of grace… goodness we do not deserve.
Salt is often used in the Bible as a symbol which Jesus used to describe his followers and which Paul then re-uses in the letter to the Colossians. Salt is a symbol of life, adding flavor to all that it is mixed with. This is how we ought to speak, with words that bring out life in someone and reveal deep wisdom. (see Proverbs 10:11,31)
I know what you are thinking next. What then should I do with all the words that won’t grace my hearer?
King David thought he should simply keep silent but found that as he did, his pain and anger only intensified in him (Psalm 39:2). That is not quite the approach we wish to follow. Though we do not want to harm others with our words, we also do not want our unspoken words to rot on the inside. If we are to deal with the root cause of the issue, we cannot stick to remaining silent alone at all times. Something must fill the void of our unspoken words.
We can fill this void with prayer, expressing what is on our heart (even the bad to God) and most importantly exchanging our words for ones of kindness, compassion, and wisdom.
Our foul language, our speech of hurt that cuts to the bones of the recipient must be destroyed, giving way to the language of peace and grace. And this begins by examining our hearts, actively working with the Holy Spirit to uproot every root of evil within. The more we absorb the word of God, the less space in our mind and heart will there be for painful words.
So if and when you should find words coming out of your mouth that do not truly bless the recipient, ask yourself “what is at the root of this in my heart?” and then ask the Holy Spirit to search you deeply.
Heavenly Father, I confess that my words are not always aimed at blessing others. I repent for the words I have used in the past that have hurt other people. Search my heart Lord and show me what is at the root of these painful words. Show me the damage that my words can cause before I speak and fill me with the fruit of the Spirit, teaching me to bless others with my words rather than hurt them. When I am tempted to express my negative feelings to others in a harmful way, please remind me to grace my hearer. When their words hurt me, teach me to extend grace and forgiveness every time rather than retaliate with greater words of anger.
Holy Spirit, fill me with your wisdom and give me a discerning spirit. Exchange my negative words for words of wisdom and understanding. Let love and peace be the language I always speak.
In Jesus’ name, amen.