[A monk] should not speak evil of, or harshly reproach another, nor should he put anyone to the blush. Never should he violently rebuke anyone or carry on a conversation with a boorish person, and his speech at all times should be noted for his lack of boastfulness.
- The Rule of Ailbe, Irish, 8th century
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
- Colossians 4.6
I’ll be the first to admit that my speech is not always gracious. Indeed, at times my speech is, well, boorish, angry, mean-spirited, unkind, frivolous, and hurtful.
This is not the way I want others to speak to me. Why is it so easy for me, on the one hand, to unleash my tongue in ungracious ways, and, on the other, to criticize those who do the same to me?
James taught us that the tongue is very, very hard to tame (Jms. 3.2, 8). We’ll never manage to do so completely in this life. But this can’t be an excuse for not striving to be more gracious in our speech. I work at this, I really do, but the law of sin is still an active force in my soul, and it often displays its lingering power through the vehicle of my tongue.
But what a sweet image Paul holds out: tongues like Jesus’ tongue, saturated with grace (cf. Ps. 45.2). Surely, here’s a goal to strive for in all our speech!
How do we attain such a lofty objective?
The more we exercise our tongues in the forms of gracious speech, the more gracious speech will become our normal mode of conversation. This begins in prayer, previewing our day before the Lord, and considering how Christ might speak through us to the people we expect to encounter.
Surely someone you will meet today could benefit from a word fitly spoken, and a little salting of grace from your tongue? Can you imagine yourself doing so? Can you put yourself in the place of those you will see today, and think about what might encourage, affirm, or edify you? If so, then you can pray specifically about opportunities to speak with Jesus’ grace to the people you will meet each day. Plan to speak graciously, pray for gracious speech, practice your plan, and pray at every opportunity, beginning with fellow believers (Heb. 10.24).
There is enough of frivolous, spiteful, critical, hurtful, harsh, and boorish speech in the world already. We can add something much more appealing, and much more likely to keep conversations going with those who experience the grace of God through the words we speak.
Especially if we turn all our speech into an opportunity to bear witness to our Lord Jesus, either by the manner of our speaking, or the content. By setting our minds on Christ and the things of His Kingdom first thing in the morning and throughout the day (Col. 3.1-3), we’ll be more likely to be ready with words of grace and a message of hope as the opportunity arises.
People are thirsty for words of encouragement, words that express appreciation, affirmation, or congratulations. They’re thirsty for such words, which bring refreshment to the soul; but they don’t often hear them.
Living water can flow from your tongue to refresh the souls of others (Jn. 7.37-39), if only you’ll plan, pray, and practice in the power of the Spirit of our gracious King.
1. What opportunities for speaking words of grace are before you today? Are you preparing for them?
2. What can keep you from having your speech always seasoned with grace? How can you overcome those obstacles?
Psalm 141.3, 4 (Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns!)
Lord, set a guard upon my mouth; let not my heart to evil bend,
Nor let me work iniquity in company with wicked men.
Lord, today help me to speak Your truth with love, and to encourage others with your grace and truth, especially as I…
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T. M. Moore
All psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Ó Maidín, pp. 20, 21.