EPHESIANS 4:28h (cont.)-29c
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 4:28h (cont.) “. . .to him that needeth.”
The idea of working in order to help others certainly was a concept unfamiliar to the pagans of Paul’s era, and sounds foreign to many in our own day, but should be the norm for believers. “The righteous giveth and spareth not” (PR 21:26). For believers, giving must be a primary motive for getting, regardless how much we make. Do not wait till we make more before we give more. We may think we would then increase our giving, but one can usually predict future behavior by present actions. If we share in little, we will share in much. If we hoard in little, we will hoard in much.
One last question on verse 28–why does God ask us to give? He obviously has no needs in and of Himself. One who owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (PS 50:10) certainly has no lack of resources. He could provide for the poor, our families, and His causes directly if He chose to. Thus, the only logical answer can be, He asks us to give for our own good! Giving possesses inherent benefits which accrue to the giver’s account.
One benefit of giving is a sense of self-worth. The Lord could accomplish all His kingdom objectives by a mere wish, but kindly lets us be part of His governmental operations. He wants his children to feel significant. He lets us pray, thereby we have input in the decision-making process. He lets us give, thereby we are a contributing factor in His ongoing work.
A second benefit of giving is protection from financial bondage. If we labor with giving to others in mind, we will never be a slave to money.
A third benefit of giving is it keeps us mindful of what really matters. Ninety percent of what a tither earns and spends has little or no effect on eternity. No contests in Heaven will honor those who had on earth the most beautiful houses. No trophies will be dispensed for the most beautiful cars. In Heaven, what has been given away on earth will be applauded.
A fourth benefit of giving is it helps us achieve our goal of being God-like, Christ-like. God is generous. He gives 100% of all we have (it is an error to think of employers as our main providers), yet asks only for 10% in return. He gives life, wife, family, children, health, a wonderful country, and requests no financial fees for these. In addition to this, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. . .” (JN 3:16), a Son who, following His Father’s example, did not clutch what was His. Everything of Heaven and eternity He released, becoming poor for our sakes (PH 2:5ff).
The only way we can be like our God of grace is to learn to give generously. God’s example is one of living by grace, which by definition involves freehearted giving. Living up to Law only requires we not appropriate to self what belongs to another. Living up to grace means we must do much more. We who receive grace must show forth grace in our lives.
Eph. 4:29a “Let no corrupt communication. . .”
Still dealing with how our lives affect others, Paul directs attention away from our money and toward our mouths. The Bible says much about speech. God deems it an important activity. To possess a human tongue is an immense responsibility. In its power potentially lies infinite good or bad. Verse 29 presents the negative and positive possibilities of the tongue.
“Communication” translates “logos,” which means “word.” “Corrupt,” literally “rotten,” was used of spoiled fruit and fish. Thus, “corrupt communication” refers to words which spread decay and ugliness.
“No corrupt communication” forbids all foul-mouthed speaking. Obscene and blasphemous language are disallowed, as are words which inflame lust. We should never wound modesty or propriety with our speech, and need to overcome a mean mouth which ever runs others down. Christians are called to a high standard, to a stewardship, regarding words we speak.
Like it or not, our words produce results. As corruption in fruit and fish never stays unto itself, rotten talk spreads rottenness. Filthy speech is as infectious as spoiled food, takes root outside of us, and transmits filth from person to person. Others hear it and are harmed. Words yield consequences, and cause things to happen outside ourselves. “They quiver on through the air; endlessly waking up harmony or discord” (Heygate, in B.I.).
In the legend of Paul Bunyan, winters were so cold that spoken words froze immediately and had to be placed by the fireplace so they could thaw and be heard. The concept of viewing words as entities unto themselves is fascinating, and not too farfetched. The Jews believed a word, once spoken, took on a life of its own, and became an entity unto itself.
This hyper-importance of words is due to man’s having been created in the image of God. God’s spoken words live. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please” (Isaiah 55:11). Man, made in God’s image, shares this awesome trait. Our words live. God’s words always accomplish good, man’s can accomplish good or bad. One way or the other, for better or worse, our words live. There is a way in which a spoken word can never be retrieved. This is why abusive language from parents leaves scars on children. Those words live and glow as a branding iron in a child’s mind.
We are responsible for what we say. God hears our dialogues. He keeps an account of every word. Thus, avoid “corrupt communication.”
Eph. 4:29b “. . .proceed. . .”
One of the most demonic sentiments ever expressed, “I might as well say it as think it,” needs to be sent back to the hellish pit from which it came. Even if a “corrupt” thought enters your mind, and begins to form on the tongue, stop it! Do not let it “proceed.”
We cannot keep the devil from placing insinuations in our minds. He hurls fiery darts at us, and supplies us plenty of filthy fodder to chew on. This explains why we can fling out reviling words as fast as a machine gun spitting out bullets. Satan helps us wax eloquent in volatile situations.
In potentially explosive situations, keep the devil from polluting our mouths. Evil thoughts will come, but for the sake of God and all others concerned, let us keep our mouths right. Take care of our own garbage. Swallow our own corruption. Choke it. Thwart it. Put an embargo around our mouth. Pray as the Psalmist did, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (PS 141:3). We need to win this battle before we speak, rather than waiting till after others have been devastated.
Eph. 4:29c “. . .out of your mouth,. . .”
“Your” mouth? Paul was writing to Christians. Are we capable of using “corrupt communication”? Paul knew us. “Corrupt communication” comes from the old nature which is corrupt, and we each have one of those.
Simon Peter was an Apostle, but when he thought his life was in danger he began “to curse and to swear” (MT 26:74). He knew if he had a foul mouth, no one would again accuse him of being a friend to Jesus. The same is true today. If we do not want to be labeled a Christian, we do not have to murder or steal. A few curse words will suffice.
Profanity is for many Christians a difficult thing to eradicate, especially if they were used to swearing in their past. Though separated by many years from vulgarity, even mature Christians often find it hard to cleanse their minds entirely from words which used to season their speech.
A profanity has not crossed my lips in 27 years, but I know if I stumble in my walk before God, one of the first practices I would resume would be cursing. Those words are addicting. They are ever dormant, ready to torture us at any moment by an unwanted reappearance. In unguarded moments, they can barge in and befoul the atmosphere. Blessed is the one who never made these words a part of their vocabulary.
In our culture, “corrupt communication” is becoming ever more difficult for all believers to overcome because we are more and more bombarded by it in the world. Profanity characterizes our society. Moral pollution is a hallmark in the conversations of our culture. We publicly talk of things we would have never discussed forty years ago. I do not advocate prudishness, and I believe in being assertive (not aggressive), but language in our culture has become obtrusive. All sense of delicacy seems lost. Raw, rough, and raucous mark our day, the more daring the better. People are admired for their coarseness, and by using it they become the center of attention. People feed their own egos through the use of verbal garbage.
Many believers have to work around foul mouthed people. We hear vulgarity on TV and radio. Profanity surrounds us, makes us feel dirty. We fear some of it may soak into our psyche and someday slip out. If we are not careful, the moral pollution outside us can seep inside us. We must daily cleanse ourselves through prayer and the Word. Otherwise we are in danger of becoming like the fabled slave described by Kent Hughes. She took poison into her system a little at a time, and then more and more, until at last her whole being was so full of poison that her very breath would wither the flowers. May our words, the breath of our spirits, be spared from this. Let them always be sweet, reflecting a purity within. Retreat to prayer in our heavenly seat, where “corrupt communication” can “wither and die under the breath of His holiness” (Pulsford, in B.I.).