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. (ESV – Read the chapter)
Paul’s focus here is on our words which is pretty important. Most of us have a tough time staying out of trouble there. James makes a convincing case for this in his letter (read it here). We are able in most cases to whip up a mean batch of foot stew at a moment’s notice.
But, let me see if I can apply this to a slightly more modern context. We should let no corrupting talk come off of our fingers, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
We live in a day when communication happens digitally, at the tips of our fingers, at least as often as it does orally. The younger a person is, the more likely this is to be the case. And, the opportunities for unwholesome, corrupting talk to come off our fingers seem to be multiplying all the time.
What does this really look like, though? Well, we can start pretty easily with posts on social media designed to hurt another person’s feelings. Any kind of cyber-bullying has absolutely no place in the life of a follower of Jesus. This is a huge problem in our culture. As Christians, we must make certain we do not contribute to it in even the slightest amount.
But, we can cast a broader net than this. Using social media as a place to air grievances about life or people or products or politics or anything else along those lines really isn’t appropriate for followers of Jesus either. And, while we’re at it, let’s go ahead and focus on politics in particular. For many people (including far too many Christians), politics is becoming ultimate. When this happens, people who fall on the other side of the political aisle become not simply our ideological opponents, but our enemies. They are not simply holding a different position than us, they are devastatingly wrong, morally suspect, and even evil in their orientation. Because of this, the temptation to get into digital blowups with our political opposites is frighteningly high. As Christians, we cannot do this. Stay out of politics on social media if you can’t control yourself. Don’t even make general statements or observations. They usually come off as little more than disruptive potshots.
Corrupting talk goes beyond bullying and politics, though. Guys: Don’t make posts that are in any way demeaning of women. Ever. Don’t joke about them in degrading ways. Don’t contribute to their objectification at all. Don’t digitally nod, wink, or raise your eyebrows in such a way that folks know you’re saying more than you are.
Ladies: Don’t make posts that demean or disrespect men in any way. Ever. Don’t put them down. Don’t contribute to the image of their benign idiocy that is so common in popular media. Don’t write them off as hopeless.
So, what’s left? Well, if you’re wondering that, you need to take a closer look at your digital footprint. Paul offers us here a pretty clear rubric for whether or not something is safe for us to post. Run it through these filters: Is it going to build someone up or tear someone down? Is it unwholesome in any way? Could it cause someone else offense needlessly? Is it going to create a climate of hope and grace, or division and dissension? Is it going to give grace to those who read it? If even one of those boxes is checked in the wrong way, don’t post it. Let no (that means no) corrupting talk come off your fingers. It’s not easy if that’s your practice, but getting it right will make the digital world a better, safer, more uplifting place for everybody. That’s worth your time.