Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one (Colossians 4:6 NKJV). Both the content and attitude of our words matter, and conversations can go very well or disastrous, depending on what we say and how we say it.
In a public speaking class in college, we were assigned extemporaneous speeches of 3-5 minutes in front of our classmates and instructor. I quickly learned that “extemporaneous” meant flying by the seat of your pants and convincing the audience of your absolute superior knowledge about impossible subjects you really know nothing of. My assigned topic was to discuss the most common minerals in a coal mine. Ugh! I had no idea what to say, but my determination to get a good grade on the speech called all my mental capabilities to attention. I quickly swallowed the lump in my throat and started talking.
One thing I could do was speak proper English, and my vocabulary was reasonably good. I heard myself launch into a discussion of minerals like iron and coal. I may have mentioned sulfur, too, and I think I threw in the word “bituminous,” but much of the speech is a blur now. However, my smooth speech led the audience to believe that I was completely comfortable and knowledgeable about the mineral contents of a coal mine. I even sounded like I was an authority on the subject! The audience was engaged, the professor smiling. My delivery was convincing, and I got an “A.”
As Christians, we represent Jesus Christ to our family, friends, and world. That includes everyone we have contact with—even nasty people, pushy spam callers, and incessant talkers. Christ looks beyond the bothersome personality traits of people into their hearts, where the real issues fester. There, He longs to infuse His grace and love, drawing them into a relationship with Him. Romans 2:4 reminds us that God’s kindness leads us to repentance.
Very few, if any, people surrender their wounded, sin-stained hearts to Jesus when someone barks a “turn-or-burn” message at them about hell, fire, and brimstone. Most of us shut down when someone speaks harshly to us, but gracious, kind, sincere words are refreshingly satisfying. Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land, Proverbs 25:25 (NASB) says.
That is how our words should affect those around us. Our speech should always be spoken in grace and seasoned with salt. If we talk with an attitude of grace, our conversation is full of cheerfulness and sincerity that reflects a heart under the divine influence of the Lord. Even in rebuking someone, we are to remain “in grace,” though our words may be correctional or instructive. Impossible? Not really, if we humbly ask the Lord for help. The MESSAGE translation says, Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out (Colossians 4:6).
Seasoned with salt… that adds flavor and makes food palatable, so it is with our words. Among the Greeks, salt was the emblem of wit. To be “seasoned with salt” means to have the savor of fresh spiritual wisdom and earnestness (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary). It does not mean to be strong, harsh, critical, or religious. Salt makes food good, but too much salt quickly ruins a recipe.
Few of us are called upon to give an impromptu speech these days, but we are always called upon to model Christ. Just as smooth, confident, understandable speech pulled my classmates into a conversation about coal mine minerals, our words, spoken in grace and seasoned with the salt of the Word, will engage the people around you, chosen by God. They will be blessed, encouraged, comforted, and edified by, as Albert Barnes, a Bible commentator says, “a soul that is under the influence of love to the Redeemer.” That makes for a good talk!
© 2023, Chris Werre