The Bible's Communication Commands

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Communication in Marriage

A pastor of mine likes to say, “What you believe comes out your fingertips” to explain why doctrine and beliefs and Bible-reading are vital to our life and lifestyle. The corollary is also true: “What comes out your fingertips is what you actually believe.”  Unfortunately, what we say and even what we think we believe is not our true belief, our real faith. When we worry, we show that we don’t actually believe God is in control (or that He is Good). When we …

We are left in a place where we must repent and cry, “Lord, I believe. Please help my unbelief.”

Here is a belief we say we have:  I believe the Bible is God’s Word. I believe it is true.

But then we come to tricky passages. Not tricky to understand. Instead, too simple and straightforward to believe. One such verse has to do with our communication with everyone, including our spouses:

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

This verse requires of us that we speak only words that build up, words that give grace. This means that mean-spirited comments or nonconstructive complaining, usually done in the name of “being honest,” are not ok. This means that critical comments to your spouse or about your spouse to children or friends (unless you are genuinely seeking counsel for a problem) are out. This isn’t an idealistic wish that we are meant to admire but not attempt. It is an imperative. It is the standard. Of course Jesus is the one who keeps the law for us, because we clearly cannot attain to this standard, but that doesn’t mean that we can merely nod in agreement to the command and then discount it with excuses. Grace does not let us off the hook. It removes the guilt of our inevitable failing, but does not allow us to remain in our sin.

Are we even trying to speak only words that build up and give grace? Are we asking God to guard our tongues?

We find this thought in Proverbs, as well:

The wisest of women builds her house,

but folly with her own hands tears it down. – Proverbs 14:1

We build our homes with our words to one another. We also tear down our homes with our words. All our words are doing one or the other. As James 3:5-10 tells us:

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

All of our words, everything we say, both to and about our spouses must be characterized by

  • grace: assuming good motives, thinking charitably of the other
  • love: seeking the other’s good and welfare
  • encouragement: speaking words that refresh, restore, and revitalize spirits
  • humility: putting your spouses needs above your own

And we must hold our tongues when words that would tear down are springing forth from our hearts. “Out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.” The corrupting words forbidden by Ephesians 4:32 include

  • rudeness: being impolite or harsh
  • unkindness: lacking mercy and love
  • anger: feeling strong displeasure, belligerence, or wrath
  • contempt: treating another as dirty, worthless, or without respect
  • discouragement:  depriving your spouse of courage, hope, or confidence
  • gossip: discussing private or personal matters publicly or idly
  • slander: spreading malicious discredit, disrespect, or disgrace

Instead of excusing rude, unkind, or deflating comments as honest and authentic, repent of them before God and ask Him to cleanse your heart and your tongue. He will. He promises He will.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 5:23


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