Salty Speech

by | May 24, 2022

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he tells believers, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). Metaphors are often culturally-specific, so Paul means something different by Salty Speech than might be intuitive for us.

Saltiness here refers to seasoning (1). Salt makes food better. Our speech should make conversations better.

Scripture acknowledges that not everything true is always helpful in the moment. Proverbs commends the wisdom of knowing when to apply words to a situation: ”A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings” (Proverbs 25:11). The Westminster Larger Catechism makes the same point, stating that “speaking the truth unseasonably” is a violation of the ninth commandment (Q 145).

These two passages complement each other. We might prefer to be one-dimensional truth-tellers who are always providing the hammer of correction to every conversation we enter. Some behave this way thinking they are doing the Lord’s work. But sometimes the one-dimensional approach does more harm than good.

I’m not suggesting we substitute error for truth. I’m suggesting we learn that there is a time to speak and a time to remain silent (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Not every conversation needs my input. Not every error is mine to correct. Sometimes it is better to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11) than to speak into it. When we do speak, our contribution to the conversation should improve it. Our speech, even our correction or rebuke, should be redemptive in nature. It should suggest a better way forward rather than just complain.

If I stub my toe walking to bed at night, the last thing I want to hear at that moment is a reminder from my wife that if I had picked up my shoes, that wouldn’t have happened. She may be right, I wouldn’t call that timing helpful.

Christians of various persuasions who imagine themselves prophets contribute so much noise to already tense conversations. You hear it in what feels like every horrible yet familiar aftermath of a racial tragedy. Christians can say really hurtful and unhelpful things. Sometimes those things are true. But James tells us that what we might imagine as wisdom is demonic if lacking in gentleness (James 3:13–15).

How might we encourage rather than criticize? When might we stay silent rather than risk being unhelpful? Our ambition as we speak should always be to build up and encourage. If we can make that mental switch, our brothers and sisters will thank us.

 


(1) Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 382.


Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray that God soften our hearts to be more gentle in our speech
  2. Pray for opportunities to encourage weary saints
  3. Pray that God gives us greater self-control and mastery over our tongues (James 3)

 

Recent POdcasts

Biblical Theology: The Law | Theology of Race

Biblical Theology: The Law | Theology of Race

Biblical Theology: The Law | Theology of Race Adrianna Anderson is back with us to discuss the law: Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy- the theology of race. We take a high-level view of these books and see the many lessons God has for His people in dealing with the...

read more
Biblical Theology: Exodus

Biblical Theology: Exodus

Biblical Theology: Exodus We continue our Bible study series with Adrianna Anderson by looking at the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. There are many ethnic issues in Exodus, from the oppression of the Israelites by the Egyptians, to the covenant faithfulness of...

read more

Upcoming Events

Isaac-Adams-United-We-Pray-speaking-at-an-event

Click Here to View Now

Recent Articles

Dear White Woman

Dear White Woman

I don’t run at night or before the sun comes up. I wonder if you don’t either. While my husband can strap on a headlamp and reflectors and hit the neighborhood running, I have to be more cautious—even in the suburbs. Common sense tells women that running in the dark...

read more
Church, Diversity, and the Questions Kids Ask

Church, Diversity, and the Questions Kids Ask

A few years ago, our family attended an anniversary service for a good friend who pastored a church in our city. Like you would expect when visiting a church, we were greeted at the door by smiling faces and eager handshakes. People were excited to show us to our...

read more
The Pride of Jonah

The Pride of Jonah

Anyone who’s been in church long enough has probably heard the story of Jonah and the fish that swallowed him. As the story goes, God tells Jonah to deliver a message to the people in the city of Nineveh. But Jonah doesn’t want to. He attempts to run from this...

read more

We’d love to hear what you think about this article. Submit your feedback by clicking here to contact us.

Author

  • Austin Suter

    Austin is the executive director and editor for U?WP. He is a husband, father and seminary student at RTS Charlotte. Austin is a member at Iron City Church in Birmingham, AL. @amsuter

Related Articles

Dear White Woman

Dear White Woman

Courtney Reissig shares her experience of choosing to run at specific times of day in order to stay safe. She reflects on her own privilege and how she might leverage that in service of her minority brothers and sisters.

read more
The Pride of Jonah

The Pride of Jonah

Anyone who’s been in church long enough has probably heard the story of Jonah and the fish that swallowed him. As the story goes, God tells Jonah to deliver a message to the people in the city of Nineveh. But Jonah doesn’t want to. He attempts to run from this...

read more

Stay Connected