Use the salt, not the pepper!
If every word that is spoken was a good word, what an incalculable ministry of blessing would there be in a lifetime of speech! But too much of it is only idle words; and too much of it is not pure, good, and sweet. The subject is worthy of very earnest, serious thought. We should not be willing to misuse our gift of speech, or to fail to use it to bless the world.
We can gather from the Bible many counsels about speech. Jesus spoke of idle words, saying that even for these we must give account. Idle words are those that are empty – empty of love, and of no value. Alas! There are many such words spoken. They may appear harmless, but they are useless; and uselessness always disappoints our Master. They give no comfort, they put no cheer into any heart, and they inspire nothing beautiful in any soul. Too much of the common conversation of the living room, of the wayside, and of the supper-table is of this vapid and empty order. It is talk about the smallest nothings, without thought, without sense, and without meaning. How it must astonish the angels of God to hear immortal beings use their marvelous gift of speech in such a trivial, idle way!
We have suggestions in the New Testament as to the kind of speech that is worthy of a redeemed life. The Apostle Paul has some very plain words on the subject… He says, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.” This means graceful speech – not merely as to its manner, but also as to its quality. It must be speech such as Christ Himself would use if He were in our place, and we know that every word of His was a holy seed! Our speech should be seasoned with salt – that is, it should be pure and clean. Salt preserves from decay and rottenness. The Christian’s speech should have in it the Divine quality of holiness, and its effect should be cleansing and purifying. One person has spoken of the words of Jesus Himself as a handful of spices cast into this world’s bitter waters in order to sweeten them. Every Christian’s words should have the same influence in society, wherever they are spoken.
This does not imply that all a Christian’s words must be words such as would be spoken in a prayer-meeting or in a church service. Sometimes they may be full of humor; fun may be just as religious in its place as prayer is in its place. There is a time to laugh, and to make others laugh. We must not suppose that all bright and merry words are wrong, or that we are not pleasing our Master unless we are talking on some distinctively religious subject. Indeed, we do need to talk of many things that are not definitely connected with a religious life. We must sometimes talk about business, about the happenings of the day, or about the books we have been reading; and at the proper times, we are even to talk of things that amuse. Often, the Divinest service that we can render to another person is to make them laugh.
Yet all the while, our speech is to be with grace; it is to be true, reverent, helpful, and inspiring. The seasoning is important; it is to be “seasoned with salt!” Love is salt. Truth is salt. Our speech should always be loving, truthful, and kindly. It should be without bitterness, without malice, and without unlovingness in any form. The seasoning should be salt; some people use pepper instead, and pepper is sharp, biting, and pungent! Their speech is full of sarcasm, censure, bitterness, and words that hurt and burn. This is not Christlike speech!
It is very important, therefore, that in the daily life of the household, the most careful watch should be kept over all the habits of speech… In too many families, the home life is marred by harsh words which are spoken too freely in the common interaction. Sometimes it is a habit of contradicting and disputing, which has been allowed to grow until it has become habitual. Usually, the questions wrangled over are of no importance whatsoever. One person says it was two o’clock, and another says it was a quarter past two; and they grow hot in contention over it. One says it was Wednesday, and another claims that it was Thursday; and the miserable strife spoils a whole meal for that family. Some people will never answer a question asked at home except in a gruff, discourteous way – as if the asking for information were an impertinence. There are families in which gentle and kindly speech is the exception; the staple talk is ill-tempered, dictatorial, or unloving.
There is also a great deal of hasty speech in some homes. It is our dearest ones that we hurt the most by our hot words. Outside our houses, we dare not speak petulantly and angrily, for our neighbors would resent such language; but in the inner circle of love, we remove the restraint, and our words too often cut deep into tender hearts! We should remember that even though love forgives hasty speech, the wounds remain. We should always hold back the word of anger.
Too much emphasis cannot be put upon this subject! Speech is golden in its opportunities; it is a pity that even one grain of the precious gold should ever be thrown away. Most of us talk too much. Silence is better far than idle, sinful, or foolish speech. Yet there may be idle silence, too. Our gift of speech was given to us to be used, but it must be used with wisdom. We should never be content to talk even five minutes with another person, without saying at least a word or two that may do them good, give a helpful impulse, or kindle an upward aspiration. Even in the lightest and most playful conversation, there may be an opportunity, before closing it, to drop a serious word that may be remembered!
In what ways can you season your words with salt today, and not pepper – especially towards those in your own family? How can your speech become more cleansing, purifying, and Christlike – like a handful of spices cast into this world’s bitter waters in order to sweeten them?
Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on this article! Feel free to leave your reflections and ask your questions in the Comments section below.
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for the King’s glory,
photo by Lachlan on Unsplash
This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on our website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.