You’re familiar with the power of the tongue as described in James 3. The passage brings us to this conclusion: “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (v. 2 ESV).

These words are hyperbolic, making the point that it is impossible for men and women to be sinless in their speech. But the lesson here is not that we should accept our depravity and speak at will. We should instead yield our tongues to God for His good and holy purposes.

Paul was making a similar appeal to the Ephesians when he urged them to avoid “corrupting talk” (4:29). The word corrupting is the same word Jesus used to describe rotting fruit and putrid fish (Luke 6:43 and Matthew 13:48, respectively).

Imagine showing up at your next neighborhood block party or church potluck with a bowl of rotting apples and a platter of decomposing fish. You’d definitely leave an impression—not a good one.

We can leave a similar stench with our words. God has entrusted us with a fragrant message of life and hope and the wonderful opportunity to engage people through encouraging words. So let’s leave the bad fruit, nasty fish, and corrupting talk in the garbage, where it belongs.

Say YES to God by agreeing to speak only in terms and about topics that build up the hearers and bring them grace. Even if the tone of the conversation is bad when you arrive, be the agent of God who introduces a better aroma.

“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” (Ephesians 4:29).