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

When my son was in High School he loved sports. His favorite sport was basketball. He started playing in 5th grade and looked forward to basketball season all year long. What he lacked in ability, he made up for in passion. The unfortunate thing in our society is that we place far more emphasis on ability and don’t recognize passion enough.

During his junior year he was fighting for the final spot on the varsity team. He talked with me the night before he was to play a one on one contest with another guy. My son said how every time he went up against this guy he ‘knew he could beat him’ but always seemed to find a way to lose. He was very nervous.

I’m by no means a perfect father or parent. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and overlooked many opportunities to mentor and guide my kids. I’ll admit that what I said next wasn’t thought out well, or planned. We were in the car, driving home in the dark.

“You know,” I said, “Whether you win or lose won’t affect who you are as a person. I love you for who you are, not for your ability. Give it your best shot, but don’t base your self-worth on the points you score or don’t score.”

My son told me that my words would give him even more incentive the next day. He entered the contest with renewed confidence in his ability. The nervousness was gone.

My son lost the contest that day and the chance at a position on varsity. But he won something far greater; he won the assurance that his worth wasn’t based on the scoreboard or the win/loss column. His worth was based on who he was as a person. My words gave him the confidence he needed to enter the battle and the assurance that win or lose, he was valued in the sight of his father.

The same is true for each of us. Society tells us value is measured by ability and success is measured by money, status and power. God’s kingdom tells us otherwise, and our responsibility as Christ-followers is to build value in a person even if their actions are contrary to our comfort level.

Paul reminds the Ephesian believers that every word that comes out of our mouths should have the purpose of building each other up. Anything less is contrary to God’s calling in our lives. At the beginning of this section in his letter, Paul admonishes his readers to ‘live worthy of the calling’ each of us has. Part of that calling is to build one another up by what we say.

Guard your words carefully because everything you say will either build someone up and draw them closer to Jesus, or tear them down and push them away from the only true source of forgiveness and grace. Criticism, sarcasm, angry outbursts, swearing and bullying (adults and children) have no place in the life of a believer and are contrary to our calling.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for the times my words have attacked your loved ones. May the words of my mouth encourage others and draw them to you. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

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