An overview of the verse:
Do not use talk that is unwholesome, foul, dirty, abusive. Swearing, vulgar, gossip, talking down to others, tearing others down or belittling, finding fault.
Say nice things: give compliments, be cheerful, tell the truth, put on a positive attitude. Edify: build up.
Not just that they benefit another but they are words of grace. We know that grace is a gift. Our words should be gifts, like giving presents away. Florence Littauer talked with children about this concept, one little girl aptly spoke, “our words should be like little silver boxes with bows on top.” And thus when Florence Littauer put this into writing she named her book: “Silver Boxes: The Gift of Encouragement.”
“Is it edifying?”
This teaching and book arose out of a family practice in the Littauer family. When raising their family they liked to memorize verses that were practical to everyday life – verses that they could teach their children and that would effect their behavior and interaction with one another. This verse encouraged the family to speak positive rather than negative words to one another. Their words to build up, to do a favor for the recipient. At times they would ask one another, “Is it edifying?” If someone said something sarcastic or negative, they asked, “Is it edifying?” Even a parent was allowed to be questioned by the child, “Is it edifying?” So common was the practice that one day their overheard their son explaining it to a friend who was over to visit: “If she asks you ‘Is it edifying?’ that means you’ve said something bad. The best way to get out of trouble is to say you’re sorry and watch what comes out of your mouth from then on.”
Apparently the Ephesian Church was having some problems saying bad things to one another. And the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the church:
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
In the church, we should watch our words. In our homes, we should watch our words. In the workplace or school, we should watch our words. Wherever we are as Christians, we should watch our words. As Christians, we should communicate differently.
For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. -Matthew 12.34
Florence Littauer speaks of many kinds of boxes: toy boxes, gift boxes, secret boxes, mailboxes, flower boxes, school boxes, stolen boxes special boxes, boxes of peace, safe-deposit boxes and boxes of broken dreams.
Gift Boxes/Stolen Boxes
Encouraging words are remembered more than material gifts. Those of us are older can quickly look back over our lives and identify probably both those who gave us gift boxes of encouragement and also those who spoke words of discouragement and hurt to us. There is such power in our words, those words live on in us. Words have the power to both make a person and destroy a person, especially our children and youth, when they are at impressionable ages.
As young people choose careers, they may choose a career according to where they have been encouraged or discouraged. Some of us have grown up with boxes of broken dreams because what we didn’t do what we really wanted to do with our lives because that path was always discouraged for some reason or other.
The week before last, Sarah Ayers accompanied me to Valley View to play the piano for the Chapel service. In talking she mentioned conversations she and Lindsey have had with other college students and how many of them are turned of to the church because basically because they did not receive encouraging words, they did not receive gift boxes. But their boxes were stolen away. What they had to contribute was not accepted. They were not made to feel a part, a significant part of the Church. In Sarah’s reflection she very much voiced an opposite experience for Lindsey and herself, of how the church has supported and encouraged them. May we continue to make our children and youth welcome and embrace them as the church.
I, personally, remember both the person who sat in the back of the church and would not even look at me when I sang a solo. (And you will remember my telling you how shy I was as a young person – that was like putting a bullet in me.) And I remember the person who took me aside after service one day, and spoke an encouraging word.
We can give boxes, we can steal boxes. Our children can come home from school on top of the world because they received a school box, an encouraging word from a teacher, and we can either uphold that box or we can smash boxes that box.
Some of us are better at receiving boxes than others. Some of us will give silver boxes away and it will seem that the person rejects that silver box. There can be many reasons for this.
~Some people who have not received silver boxes along life’s way, do not know how to receive silver boxes. It may take repeated attempts on your part until they will actually receive the box.
~Some people may have consistently received negative words, even abusive words all their life (or physical/sexual abuse) and to tell them something positive about themselves, they don’t believe it. They reject your good words because they cannot see the good in themselves.
~Sometimes people have just learned some bad news or they aren’t feeling well.
~Sometimes it may be their personality (Personality Plus)
~as Christians, they believe it is not right to accept a compliment.
At one point Littauer asks, “Have you kissed a frog today?” You know the fairy tale where the frog when kissed turns into a handsome prince. Our words have the power to do just such a thing. Sometimes our words open up a possibility for people to live into. Littauer tells as story of a daughter and mother-in-law. This young woman always had trouble choosing a mother’s day card because her mother-in-law was not that picture perfect woman. But she began sending her cards that told of the mother-in-law she wished she would be and her mother-in-law soon began exhibiting those traits.
As God encourages us we are called to encourage one another. As we come to know God’s unconditional love, we are called to share that love with others.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. -Psalm 19.14