One treat I discovered in America was the Jelly Belly jelly bean. I was astounded that the beans tasted exactly like the product whose flavor they mimicked – so the blueberry jelly bean tastes just like an actual blueberry, as with the buttered popcorn, peanut butter and jelly, cherry-cola, coffee with milk and sugar, doughnuts, and countless other concoctions.
Then I discovered Jelly Belly’s evil twin: Bertie Botts Beans. These duplicitous imposters look like Jelly Belly beans, but ooze with noxious flavors, like toothpaste, grass, dirt, rotten egg, soap, earwax, booger, earthworm, and the worst of the worst: vomit.
It became fashionable to serve visitors a bowl of regular beans, laced with a few putrid Bertie Botts in the same bowl, thus setting a ghastly trap for an unsuspecting guest.
In much the same way words come in countless varieties. You get sweet words, sour words, and downright noxious words. You can match your vocabulary to any situation. And speech can be wholesome and healing, or noxious and harmful.
Paul offers three flavors of words Christians should use in their speech…
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious,…
Gracious, or “filled with grace” means “attractive, that which delights and charms.”
Some people are always edifying to listen to. Jesus had this characteristic:
Luke 4: 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.
Graciousness is the sweetness of speech spoken of in Proverbs 16: 24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
It’s the opposite of offensive language, bitter ranting, or stale banality.
Conversations with Christians should never leave a bitter aftertaste, like a rotten egg jelly bean, but should always produce a pleasant sweetness. Christians can converse with unbelievers about the weather, sport, politics, and movies, making their conversation pleasant and informed, while still using opportunities to bear witness to the grace of God in their lives.
Your speech should always reflect the grace of salvation in your life. This means conversation should be free of gossip, rude joking, swearing, snide comments, and blasphemy.
Elsewhere Paul teaches: 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. (Eph 4:29)
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,…
What does it mean to salt your speech?
What salt does for a meal, wisdom does for words: it flavors it for consumption and makes it easier to digest. Wisdom with our speech can prevent corrupting talk and make what we have to say easier to receive. This is especially needed when we have a hard truth to share with someone.
Do your words leave people with indigestion?
In Greek the idiom of salty speech also refers to wit and humor. Some people feel there is an ideal, ‘Christianese’ speech style which is serious and somber. But God created us all differently, with a variety of expressions and tastes. Christians don’t have to be bland and boring. Humor is a gift from God to make our conversation winsome and effective, while still telling the truth.
So season your speech with the appropriate flavor for the occasion. Which brings us to…
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Ephesians 4:29: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion…
There is no ‘one size fits all’ type of speech. You can’t rehearse a pat answer for every situation. It’s about being appropriate to the occasion.
Prov 26: 4-5 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
So, sometimes you need to speak up and other times you need to bite your tongue.
Sometimes you need to be firm, other times gentle, depending on the person.
1 Thess 5: 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
What I do in the pulpit is appropriate for the public proclamation of God’s word. But one on one, I need to speak differently. Is the person hurting, confused, or rebellious? Those three conditions require different medicines.
And sometimes the best speech is no speech: Eccl 3: 7 [There is] a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
Prov 17: 28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
So Christian, if your speech has been ungracious and offensive, ask God for forgiveness, ask him to change your heart so that you will have only sweet, salty, and suitable speech to his glory. And work hard at eliminating the earwax and boogers from your conversation.