"And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God,
by whom you are sealed unto the day of redemption."
Ephesians 4:30--Part 3
When I first became a Christian, I had this concept of God being distant and angry. It never occurred to me God might feel grieved by what I do, rather than angry. But the verses say we can grieve the Holy Spirit! One of the important concepts for us to grasp is we don't want to concentrate merely on ceasing from sin. Apart from loving God and wanting to not grieve His heart we have very little motivation to change. When we talk about ceasing from sin, we want to replace sinful behaviors with godly behaviors.
Verse 27 says, "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need." The reason we are not to steal is because we are called to be a reflection of our Creator. He is a God who gives gifts rather that stealing from His creation. I usually think about work in the sense that it pays bills and provides things we want. I have never thought of working with the motive of being able to share with those in need. When I think about working to share with others I think of books like Little Women where godly men and women took food to the ill and they made clothes for the poor. Sometimes I give a bag of used clothes to Goodwill or Mexico missions, but when I went to Mexico and watched the little girls playing, I pictured them in pretty little jumpers with flowers on them. The material would be new, brightly colored, and have that new stiff feeling to it. Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if maybe God was calling me to provide more than my "leftovers."
Sometimes I contemplate going back to school and to work and I think after meditating on this passage I would have a motive that is more noble than selfish. I would do it to share with those who truly have needs, not to just buy more and more things. Do keep in mind that there are a lot of ways we could be stealing…are we giving our best to our bosses, pilfering things from work, misusing some one's property or borrowing and not returning?
Verse 29 is also a verse that deals with relationships. "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." This verse parallels verse 28 in that it is instructing us to be centered more on the needs of others than on our own. While the other verse was instructing those who stole to replace their behavior with working with the intent of giving to those in need, this verse is telling us to pay attention to the needs of another person and then meet those needs with Godly speech. So often our speech consists of empty chatter, put downs, gossip, or slander. I think the gist of this verse is telling us to be focused on the other person so our speech benefits them. Empty chatter is just talk we talk to be heard with the motive of being the center of attention. "Put downs" are intentional hurtful things or jokes at the expense of others so we can feel more important. Gossip and slander are intentional acts of hatred that belittle others and direct the listener to think things about the other person we want them to think. There are a lot of other things like bad language and coarse jokes that don't benefit others either. The real key is that we need to be intentional in our speech so that it meets the needs of others–needs like edification, encouragement, exhortation, and comfort.
Do our words shame or do they build up another person when she is down or when she is struggling with doubts? Do they encourage a friend to forgive or do they fan the flame of a conflict she is seeking counsel about? Do they affirm their growth and bring laughter to their soul or inflict pain? Do they increase their joy or cause sorrow? Do they ask those hard questions that need to be asked to draw them back to the Lord or do that dismiss sin as no big deal? Is the Holy Spirit a part of every conversation we have or are we even mindful of His presence? Do we allow Him to direct us to discern a person's needs or do we ignore that voice drawing us to serve?
He can show us how to use the gift of speech to meet other’s needs. One night my husband and I were in the car going somewhere after he had been out of town. We were both bursting at the seams with news and talking about the things that had happened in our lives while we were apart. After awhile I started laughing, because we were not responding to what the other person said. It was like two totally different conversations happening at once and neither of us took the time to listen or validate the other’s feelings or to respond to each other. I hope we can become so intentional so our words count. That seems extreme, but then we serve an extreme God who loved with intentional words and intentional actions. We worship a God who was so extreme in His love for us that He was willing to die. To be like Him we must be extreme.
Prayer: Father, how often we work with wrong motives or seek to have things given us. Help us work so we can give. How often we say words that are self-serving rather than benefiting those who hear. Help us love others enough to learn about people we communicate with so that we might meet their needs. You call us to put other's needs over our own, that is being a living sacrifice, isn't it? To live a life in which every word counts seems so extreme, help us grow into people who do that. Make us aware of empty words and self - serving speech patterns. Help us to love by listening and responding appropriately. Amen.