The apostle Paul does not make a suggestion for the specific type of communication that you employ in Ephesians 4:29. Rather, under the inspiration and authority of the Holy Spirit, he issues a direct and strong command. It is one that all of us too often ignore. Structuring our words to bring grace to our listeners is frequently the last thing on our minds. However, by failing to do so, our words become corrupt, unwholesome, and rotten. Paul is saying don’t talk this way (with corrupt words), but this way (with words that bring benefit, grace). Here are three translations of Ephesians 4:29:
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
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. NIV
No rotten talk should come from your mouth, but only what is good for the building up of someone in need, in order to give grace to those who hear. HCSB
Please remember that while often refer to Facebook in these posts these principles apply to all forms of social networking & media that you may use.
Posting electronically provides you with these two options: you can leave a trail of rotten communication that points directly back to you, or you can leave a trail of words, comments and thoughts that point directly to Christ and his mercy. Which trail would you like to create? This is a question that you may not ignore. God commands you to do all things for his glory, to add to his reputation.
So how, specifically, can your communication on Facebook be a benefit to others?
The first thing to remember is that if your words are faithful to God and his word, they will be helpful to others. Social networking presents an opportunity to impact others each day with thoughts that bring honor to your Savior. How cool is that? Please don’t think of this as a formal ministry. Rather, think of these opportunities in the spirit of Deuteronomy 6:4-7. Wherever you go in cyberspace you have the opportunity to talk about how good God is. When things are difficult He is faithful. When you experience joy and delight it is because of the mercy of God. God is at work in his world, but our tendency is to ignore the hand of God and act as if it is only other people that make things happen. Many of the people who are a part of your extended friend network may not know God. You have the privilege of presenting short, helpful comments about how you are blown away by your God. You can demonstrate knowing his comfort in difficulty by simply commenting that you are glad that God knows what he is doing with a troubled world. So being faithful to God is being faithful to others.
Secondly, you can recall the wisdom of the Proverbs. Sometimes less is more. A wise man uses words with restraint. Short, pointed comments will more likely be read and thought about than long ones. A brief expression of comfort in God’s providence may actually provoke a discussion from someone who wants to understand your comfort in a challenging circumstance.
Next, you can be helpful by being truthful and factual. Don’t pass on speculation and become part of a chain of gossip that leads to the destruction of others. Remember Proverbs 18:17 in this light. Don’t be afraid to challenge how someone knows about some titillating tidbit of data.
Lastly, be pleasant and encouraging. You have much to rejoice about as a child of God. Your pleasant words can be a sweet honeycomb that attracts others to the truth of God and his gospel.
Much more could be said about helpful communication on Facebook. However, if you start with these four principles you will have an excellent base to build on and be a blessing to others. To sum up, these four principles are:
1) Be faithful to God and you will be faithful to others.
2) Be brief.
3) Be truthful and factual.
4) Be pleasant and encouraging.
Implementing these principles may take some rethinking, but they will serve you well, not only in social networking but in all of your communication. With apologies to John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Facebook!