The wise man declared, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). There is so much value in “a word fitly spoken.” The Hebrew for “fitly spoken” here means “set on wheels.” All our words are set on wheels. If they are good words, they are wheeling on for good. If they are evil words, they go wheeling on for evil. Realizing the power of our words we see the beauty of words that are said in the proper manner. The “word” is the fruit set off by its circumstances, as the latter’s beauty is enhanced by the grace of the vessel which contains it. Paul uses this same image in Ephesians 4:29 when he writes “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”
The tongue is a power creature that can bring about great blessing or terrible pain (James 3). As people of God we should task ourselves with speaking in a manner that edifies others. The word ‘edify’ is Latin for “making a house.” When we edify someone we are building them up. The Revised Version of Ephesians 4:29 suggest “but such as is good for edifying as the need may be.” When is there not a need to hear a good word from others? How often those who are downtrodden are lifted up from the doldrums of despair by a well-placed word of edification.
Jesus was the master of edification. When a leper came to the Lord in Luke 5:12-16 begging to be healed Jesus “put out His hand and touched him say, ‘I am willing; be cleansed” (v13). The emphasis is on the miracle of healing the body but notice also the healing of the mind when Jesus touched the leper and told him “I am willing.” Little children were brought to Jesus that He might lay his hands on them and pray for them (Matthew 19:13-15). Imagine the joy of heart the parents felt as they listened to the Lord offering up prayer for their children. Often in the ministry of the Lord would He take time out to edify the multitudes that came out to Him. “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34)
The compassion shown by the Lord is our motivation to have a heart of kindness toward others. We all need a helping hand. “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Hebrews 12:12). The church is made up of different kinds of people who are traveling the road of life at different places. There are those who have the strength of Paul who boldly march forth with determined fortitude and faith. So often there are those who just struggle every day with how to be a Christian. I wonder how many leave the path of righteousness because the road becomes weary and hard and few words of edification are given to them. Discouraged and alone they wander off the road to despair.
The church at Corinth had a lot of problems and one was the failure to consider others to stir up love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Paul reminded them that everyone was important. “For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?’” (1 Corinthians 12:14-16). They needed to learn the lesson about “words fitly spoken” to help and encourage those who were struggling. Notice a most important lesson Paul gives the saints at Corinth: “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary” (1 Corinthians 12:21-22).
Words given for edification are words that may help the weaker members. We cannot view the weaker members as unnecessary but rather seek to impart grace to them to edify them to greater service. Weaker members go to heaven also remember! They need help in their struggles just as much as one stronger. Zig Ziglar said, “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” Imagine the good that could be done if we used our speech to impart grace to others rather than constantly criticizing. “God grant that we may not hinder those who are battling their way slowly into the light” (Oswald Chambers).
“A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is” (Proverbs 15:23). Imparting grace to others is changing the old man of sin into the new man of Christ. Removed from the speech of God’s people is “anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language … do not lie to one another” (Colossians 3:8-9). The character of the new man is found in the language of grace of putting on “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:12-17).
It is important to see how our speech is found in all of the traits listed in Colossians 3. We should be strong enough to edify others by our words of encouragement. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion” (Romans 12:14-16). Words! The power of words!