I was chatting with someone online recently and he was telling me how everyone in the household would make mean-spirited comments to one another, supposedly in a joking manner.
There is a term in the counseling world that is interesting: family systems theory. There is a lot that a person can get out of study of this term but the core idea of it is that every family is a system in which all the members are connected and affect one another more than they affect others outside the family. This is especially true of those who live in one household….even when they aren’t blood related. In other words, if people live together under one roof, they can strongly affect one another.
Now, God tells us that he determines who we will be around and when in history this will happen (Acts 17:26-27) and that we are all connected (Colossians 2:19). So, whoever it is that is near us is connected to us….and God can operate in that.
I suppose every family system is free to operate any way it wants. We ARE free to sin if we want, but most people don’t seem to sit around thinking, “I think I shall sin against my sister today!” We just often do what we are used to doing….as if we were on autopilot. We are free to do whatever we want but it will always have consequences.
It seems to me that satan often takes advantage of God’s design for people and he knows we have habitual behaviors because we have neuron paths in our brains that make it easier for us to do what we are used to doing, rather than change our behaviors.
This short article is designed to mess up satan’s plans to hurt people through making them do what they usually do.
So, I was talking to this young man on the computer and he revealed that this “joking” in his home was taking a toll on him. Even though he was able to see that no one really had malicious intent when they made cutting remarks to one another and to him…..it still hurt him. His soul is a sensitive one and everything said and done affected him.
This touched me and I asked him to invite everyone there to gather around the computer to read what I was about to say. I don’t know if they really did that, but I DO know what I said. I’ll share it here now because I think that what happened in his home is not uncommon in many other homes.
Most people have been taught that God and the Bible and church have nothing to do with their everyday lives. Even many Christians seem to live as if God and His thoughts are not really pertinent to everyday life. I believe this is a fatal error for humanity that has been propagated by the same malicious being (satan) that was prompting people in my young friend’s home to hurt one another with “harmless joking.” This error has caused the world to become a worse and worse place to live; this can be seen all around us….if we have eyes to see the truth.
Part of my own role in the Body of Christ and in the world is to share that God’s Word IS pertinent to our everyday lives because it was God who crafted us with His own hands. He knows how we are designed and how we can operate most effectively. So, when this young man shared what his life was like in his home, two principles from the Bible came to mind.
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” (Ephesians 5:1-4 – underlined area is mine.)
The first principle is this: the term “coarse jesting” in Ephesians 5:4 is the Greek word “eutrapelia.” It’s a curious word because it’s the combination of two other words. Combining them in the way they are put together actually reveals satan’s hand in what he does with mean-spirited teasing, even if presented to be “all in fun.”
The first part of “eutrapelia” is kind of nice. It means “courteous” or “supportive.” The second part, though, means “to turn.” Perhaps you can see what I saw when I researched that term: that practicing coarse jesting is actually the twisting of something that God would have us to do (be courteous or supportive) into something that cuts and tears down.
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29 – underlined area is mine.)
Many Christians have been taught that the term “corrupt words” (translated as “unwholesome words” in the New American Standard Bible) only means “cuss words.” While I believe those are included in coarse jesting and corrupt words, I do not believe that is all it means. It means mean-spirited speech as well.
The second principle is also from Ephesians: the word “corrupt” is the Greek word “sapros.” It means “rotten” or “putrid” – like fruit that decays. In fact, its root word (“sepo”) is one that literally means to “decay” or to bring something from one state to a worse state.
I find it interesting that Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:29 that there are two basic choices here. One is to speak putrid words that are designed to cause another’s life to worsen….to tear that other person…and the other is the polar opposite: to speak words that build that other person up.
The last part of that verse also intrigues me. Paul says that when we speak words that build others up, “it may impart grace to the hearers.” The word “impart” is rendered as “minister” in the King James Version. It is the Greek word “didomi” which literally means to “adventure” something into a person’s life. In this case, it is “grace” which is ministered to those hearing affirming words.
As I shared this with my young friend and whoever had gathered around his computer that day it occurred to me that since God chooses who will be around us and when they will be with us He has, essentially, given us all an amazing opportunity. He has blessed us with frequent opportunities to adventure grace, the God derived supernatural ability to accomplish what He would have us do, into the lives of those around us.
That realization birthed an idea in my mind and I delivered that idea to those people staring at that computer that day. I, likewise, deliver it to you right now.
What would happen if we decided to fast, let’s say….for a week, from coarse jesting and allowing unwholesome words to fall from our lips? Can you imagine how the atmosphere of a home or workplace might change if we all decided to do that?
According to Ephesians, if we decided to replace unwholesome words that tear people down with words designed to recognize positive traits in others, to voice the expectation that one will do better, to speak hope (joyful expectation), to encourage one to excel…we would literally be delivering grace from God to those people – which would empower them to do better by practicing the things God intends for them.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
We could help them accomplish the things God has prepared for them to do and has prepared them to accomplish. We could help them fully populate God’s intentions for their lives, which is one of my personal goals for my own life.
My encouragement today, then, is this: let’s purpose in our hearts that we fast for a week from uttering anything that would cut a person down (even jokingly) and replace that with observations of positive traits and voicing our recognition of their potential. Let’s joyfully anticipate the happy fruit of that: the delivery of God’s grace to those around us.
And…..let’s see the positive affect this has in us when we do this for others.
I have written this today in obedience to my Lord, my Savior…my King: Jesus the Christ.