Lost In Translation


Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what helps build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 


During the summer before my junior year of high school, I went on a cross-cultural excursion to Germany. That trip somehow managed to be the shortest adventure and longest vacation simultaneously. I didn't want the sightseeing portion of the journey to end, but the communication barrier got old quick. 

I didn't speak the language. From the first conversation with my host family, I felt like a stranger in a strange land. It was at that moment I wished instead of sleeping during class that I learned a bit of German to help me navigate through these conversations. 

By default, my speech was slow and intentional. No word got wasted. I...had...to...think...about...every...word...that...came...out...of...my...mouth.  Unfortunately, pretty much everything I uttered got lost in translation. When people spoke, I had to pay attention very clearly in hopes of understanding a word here and there.

I can't help but think back to this trip every time I read today's verse in Ephesians. Paul urges the believers in Ephesus not to let any unwholesome talk come out of their mouth. Instead, he wants their words to build each other up. 

We cannot control our words in the moment, but we can learn to change our words over time. It involves checking our heart, thinking about our thoughts, and slowing our speech. Speaking without thinking is a recipe for disaster. 

Taming our tongue is a lifelong journey that requires a great deal of intentionality on our part. Our words should be thoughtfully and carefully chosen. If we can control our words, we can control our life. Taking control of our words begins when we learn how to pause and think through their implications and motivations. 

Are our words giving grace to the person hearing them? Do they build someone up or tear them down? Will they breathe life into another person, or will they suck the wind out of them? What's driving us to speak up? How can we honor God by what we say?

Because our words matter deeply to God, they must matter to us. 


  • We all make mistakes with our words. Through Jesus, every wrong word we’ve ever spoken is forgiven. Where do you need to ask for forgiveness for the hurtful words you’ve spoken?

  • Who can you encourage and build up by speaking words of affirmation to this week? Why did that person come to mind?


God, may I leverage the power of the pause to think through what I am about to say before I say it. I desire to use my words in a way that spurs others on to hope and purpose. I want to be one who is quick to listen, but slow to speak. Allow my speech to build others up and point them to You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

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