Salty Language

Salty Language

Paul writes in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each person”. If I were to ask you to pause and share with me what you thought it meant to have your speech seasoned with salt I am sure you could come up with an answer.  You might share how our language needs to act as a preservative additive (like when you tan a hide – something I am sure all of you have done this week) or you might describe how our language can spice up a conversation. You wouldn’t be wrong but as I was studying this week I came across some ideas that might help us be more precise in our quest to know exactly what Paul was exhorting us to do.
In Rabbinical literature, literature written by Jewish teachers, the use of salt was associated with wisdom.  Since Paul used to be a Jewish leader, he might be going back to those roots.  The idea being that our speech should be permeated with the wisdom of God.  We don’t have to say, every few sentences, “The Bible says” but our speech is molded and shaped by the wisdom of God found in the Word of God. It is as if we are speaking God into every situation.  This would require a third step in our speaking process.  Normally we think of a thought and then we speak it.  Paul is encouraging us to think of a thought, filter it through the Word of God and make any changes necessary, and then speak it.  Not a bad idea.
But I think we can get closer to what Paul meant as we understand that Paul’s ministry was to Gentiles and he was writing to a church in a Roman city.  The Romans used the idea of salt with language to mean that our speech should be winsome or witty.  The idea was that our speech should attract people.  Remember that Paul first said our speech should be gracious.  Taking the two ideas together, Paul is saying that our speech, especially our speech to those outside the church, should be full of grace, warm, and inviting.  It should attract people to Christianity and the gospel, not make them walk away.  This also applies to our comments on social media.  Is all of our speech gracious (giving what is not deserved), warm, full of wisdom, and attractive?
We often use Jesus as an excuse to use language that is less than gracious.  Speech that is more direct and pointed.  Jesus did not pull punches when he spoke to the Pharisees.  That is a good point. When you become Jesus, then use his language.  Until then, you can quote him in context, but in your own speech be gracious, warm and witty.  Jesus understood and knew each heart.  We do not.  So, when we need to speak to sin and to those opposing the Word of God, it is best that we use the Word of God, in it’s context, and allow our speech to be seasoned with the salt of knowing that we were just like the ones whom we are rebuking.  That fact alone should move our hearts toward a more gracious approach.
Our speech reflects our hearts.  Is your heart full of grace and love? Can I give you an observation that I have made over the years?  It may or may not be accurate.  I have found, as I speak with my brothers and sisters in Christ, that during the summer months our speech becomes less biblically salty and more sailor salty.  As we spend more time on ourselves -- vacations, outings, fun events -- and less time focused on the things of the Lord and ministry, it does not take long for our hearts to be filled with less grace and more us. It begins to show in our speech.  Little more edge to our comments. Few more uses of sailor salty words.  Less grace and more judgment. I do not say this is judgment, but as a reminder of why Paul exhorts us to be on our guard and to make sure that our speech is seasoned with salt.  Notice the end of the verse.  It is all about our witness.  Speaking gracious words that are warm, witty, and inviting provides opportunities to share the good news of Jesus.  Speaking biblically salty words allows you to develop a godly habit that allows you to answer someone’s question in a manner that attracts and does not repel.
Check out your language today.  Full of grace and wit or is it worthy of the seven seas?

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