Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
Have you ever heard the phrase: "if you have nothing better to say, don't say it"? I'm sure that at points in our lives some of us have heard that from others who are incensed by our less-than-kind snarkiness. Turns out, the Bible has the same idea as those people.
The word unwholesome here literally means depraved or rotten (Greek: sapros, σαπρός). It indicates the general type of language that we are told not to engage in but it doesn't necessarily shed light on the specifics. Which is good, because words change with cultural norms and words that were extremely offensive in the distant past are now perfectly okay words to use without the same meanings.
On the other hand, we are told to build up others with our words. The word here (Greek: oikodome, οἰκοδομή) has the connotation of spiritual advancement. It is the role of nursing someone in the spirit; the word itself is feminine, which makes sense given the connotations, indicating this idea of nurturing and gentleness.
This verse is part of instructions that Paul gives to the church of Ephesus, who were told to embrace a new and different life from that of the culture around them. I won't go into too much detail on the topic, but safe to say the culture around them was not particularly great for spiritual growth, seeing as how there was a large acceptance of moral depravity.
Yet today the same instructions can apply to us. We may not be surrounded by moral depravity, but I'm sure without saying that you know what words are wholesome and which are not. Instead of filling conversations with words that do nothing useful and perhaps are even corrupting, let's strive to build people up with our words.
Remember that today, if you have nothing better to say, perhaps it's best to leave it unsaid.
Daniel is currently and forevermore will be a student and a learner, trying to delve into the deep conundrums of life and seeing where the path leads. He enjoys linking different things in life back to God through strange and seemingly random connections.