“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.”
When I was in college I can remember having a “roommate meeting” with the guys that I shared an apartment with and one of them (could of been me but memory is a little foggy) brought this verse up as we talked about some things that were bothering all of us. Since that time this verse has always stuck with me as one of those pet verses that we like to bring up when people says things to us that challenge or rebuke us. So what was Paul saying in this verse?
I believe that we need to use words that build each other up and not intentionally tear each other down. I can remember that their was a time in my life when I enjoyed making fun of others and saying things to people that were mean-spirited. The funny thing is that the older that we get in the faith we still continue to speak to and about others in the same way mean-spirited way but we have learned to “cover” ourselves with spiritual sounding language and intent.
I know that we all can be challenged by this verse as Paul wrote earlier in this chapter,
“17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”