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Ephesians 4:29

ESV Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
NIV 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.
NASB Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
CSB No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.
NLT Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
KJV Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
NKJV Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

What does Ephesians 4:29 mean?

Paul transitions from a contrast between stealing and hard work (Ephesians 4:28) to contrasting corrupting speech with encouraging speech. In both cases, his intent is to explain how Christians need to make a conscious effort to live differently than in our pre-salvation days. Just as stealing is associated with unbelievers, so also corrupting talk is associated with those who do not know Christ.

Interestingly, Paul specifically indicates that we do indeed have control over what we say: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths." This contradicts the common excuse of "I couldn't help saying it." According to the Bible, we are accountable for the words we use (Matthew 12:36). Only a tiny proportion of people suffer from medical conditions which interfere with control of vocabulary. And, even such people can be expected to use whatever control they have, as much as they can. Christians do have control of our words, which are a powerful influence in how the world perceives us.

Instead of using "corrupting" or negative talk, Paul provides two guidelines for how to speak. First, we are to speak in beneficial ways about meaningful things. Second, we are to speak in ways appropriate to the situation we are in. What might be completely acceptable in one circumstance might be rude or unkind in another. The goal is to show grace to those who are listening to our words. We are not supposed to prioritize our own feelings, but make it our intent to help others through our words.
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