Excerpt from Colossians 4:2-18
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt.”
Reflection by Martin B. Copenhaver
Words matter. Words can either inspire or discourage, heal or hurt, offer a blessing or a curse. As someone once told me, “Whoever said, ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,’ must have lived among deaf mutes.” As it says in Proverbs, “Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (12:18).
So the Apostle Paul counsels us to mind our tongues, to act as if words matter: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt.” He is not advocating “salty language” in the way we use the term. In the Bible salt means many things. It preserves food, keeping it pure. Salt also is treasured as a source of healing. So Paul wants us to tend to our words as if they have that kind of power.
When I served First Congregational Church (UCC) in Burlington, Vermont, one of my colleagues was Thelma Norton, a great saint of the church. In her role as Parish Visitor she had intimate access to the lives of hundreds of people and yet I never heard her speak ill of a single person. When, in the course of conversation, she came even close to speaking a harsh or judgmental word, she would stop herself and say, “Well, I’ll just say Amen to that,” and then move on. Her speech was always gracious in a way that inspires me still. Her language was salted in the way Paul had in mind. She was the kind of “salt of the earth” whom Jesus praised.
Dear God, help me to tend to my words as if they matter. Because they do. Amen.
About the Author
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Wellesley, Massachusetts. He is the author, with Lillian Daniel, of This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers.
Live simply. Love generously.
Care deeply. Speak kindly.
Leave the rest to God.
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– Psalm 146:7-9
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