Spiritual Conversations Build Up
“Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers.”—EPHESIANS 4:29.
1, 2. (a) How valuable is human speech? (b) How do Jehovah’s servants desire to use their tongue?
“HUMAN speech is a secret; it is a divine gift, a miracle.” So wrote lexicographer Ludwig Koehler. Perhaps we take this precious gift of God for granted. (James 1:17) But consider how great a treasure is lost when a stroke robs a loved one of the ability to utter intelligible speech. “We had a wonderful bond of communication,” explains Joan, whose husband recently suffered a stroke. “How I miss our conversations!”
2 Conversations can cement friendships, heal misunderstandings, uplift the downhearted, strengthen faith, and enrich lives—but never automatically. Wise King Solomon observed: “There exists the one speaking thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword, but the tongue of the wise ones is a healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) As Jehovah’s servants, we want our conversations to heal and build up rather than hurt and tear down. We also desire to use our tongue to praise Jehovah, both in our public ministry and in our private conversations. The psalmist sang: “In God we will offer praise all day long, and to time indefinite your name we shall laud.”—Psalm 44:8.
3, 4. (a) What problem do all of us face with regard to our speech? (b) Why does our speech matter?
3 “The tongue,” warns the disciple James, “not one of mankind can get it tamed.” He reminds us: “We all stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man, able to bridle also his whole body.” (James 3:2, 8) None of us are perfect. Despite our best intentions, therefore, our speech does not always build others up or furnish praise to our Creator. So, then, we must learn to pay attention to what we say. Moreover, Jesus said: “Every unprofitable saying that men speak, they will render an account concerning it on Judgment Day; for by your words you will be declared righteous, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36, 37) Yes, the true God holds us accountable for our words.
4 One of the best ways to avoid harmful speech is to develop the habit of engaging in spiritual conversations. This article will consider how we can do that, what sort of topics we can talk about, and what benefits we can derive from upbuilding speech.
Pay Attention to the Heart
5. How does the heart play a key role in promoting upbuilding conversations?
5 In cultivating the habit of engaging in upbuilding conversations, we must first recognize that our speech reflects what is in our heart. Jesus said: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) Simply put, we like to talk about the things that matter to us. We need, then, to ask ourselves: ‘What do my conversations reveal about my heart condition? When I am with my family or fellow believers, does my conversation center on spiritual matters or does it invariably gravitate to sports, clothes, movies, food, my latest purchases, or some trivialities?’ Perhaps unwittingly, our lives and our thoughts have come to revolve around secondary matters. Adjusting our priorities will improve our conversations as well as our lives.—Philippians 1:10.
6. What part does meditation play in our conversations?
6 Purposeful meditation is another way to improve the quality of what we say. If we consciously make an effort to think about spiritual matters, we will find that spiritual conversation comes naturally. King David saw this connection. He sang: “Let the sayings of my mouth and the meditation of my heart become pleasurable before you, O Jehovah.” (Psalm 19:14) And the psalmist Asaph said: “I shall certainly meditate on all your [God’s] activity, and with your dealings I will concern myself.” (Psalm 77:12) A heart and mind deeply concerned about the truths of God’s Word will naturally overflow with praiseworthy speech. Jeremiah could not hold back from speaking about the things that Jehovah had taught him. (Jeremiah 20:9) So it can be with us if we regularly ponder on spiritual matters.—1 Timothy 4:15.
7, 8. What topics are good for upbuilding conversations?
7 Having a good spiritual routine provides us with plenty of topics for upbuilding conversations. (Philippians 3:16) Assemblies, conventions, congregation meetings, current publications, and the daily scripture text and printed comments all furnish us with spiritual gems we can share. (Matthew 13:52) And how spiritually stimulating can be the experiences from our Christian ministry!
8 King Solomon was fascinated by the great variety of trees, animals, birds, and fish he observed in Israel. (1 Kings 4:33) He delighted in conversing about God’s creative works. We can do the same. Jehovah’s servants enjoy talking about a variety of subjects, but spiritual topics always flavor the conversations of spiritually inclined people.—1 Corinthians 2:13.
“Continue Considering These Things”
9. What admonition did Paul give to the Philippians?
9 Whatever the topics, our conversations will build others up if they adhere to the apostle Paul’s admonition to the congregation in Philippi. He wrote: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” (Philippians 4:8) The matters Paul mentions are so vital that he says “continue considering these things.” We should fill our minds and hearts with them. So let us see how giving attention to each of the eight things cited by Paul can help us with our conversations.
10. How can our conversations involve things that are true?
10 That which is true involves more than information that is correct and not false. It refers to something that is upright and trustworthy, such as the truth of God’s Word. Hence, when we talk to others about Bible truths that impressed us, discourses or talks that uplifted us, or Scriptural counsel that helped us, we are considering things that are true. On the other hand, we reject “the falsely called ‘knowledge,’” which gives only an appearance of truthfulness. (1 Timothy 6:20) And we avoid passing on gossip or relating dubious experiences that cannot be verified.
11. What things of serious concern can be included in our conversations?
11 Things of serious concern are subjects that are dignified and consequential, not trivial or petty. They include concerns about our Christian ministry, the critical times in which we live, and the need for us to maintain fine conduct. When we discuss such serious matters, we reinforce our determination to keep awake spiritually, maintain our integrity, and continue preaching the good news. Indeed, interesting experiences in our ministry and current events that remind us that we are living in the last days provide a variety of material for stimulating conversations.—Acts 14:27; 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
12. In view of Paul’s counsel to consider things that are righteous and chaste, what should be avoided?
12 The word righteous means being right in God’s eyes—meeting his standards. Chaste conveys the idea of purity in thought and conduct. Slander, obscene jokes, or sexual innuendos have no place in our conversations. (Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:8) In the workplace or at school, Christians wisely withdraw when conversations take on this tone.
13. Give examples of conversations that revolve around things that are lovable and well spoken of.
13 When Paul recommends considering lovable things, he refers to matters that are pleasing and agreeable or that inspire love, as opposed to those that arouse hatred, bitterness, or contention. Things well spoken of refer to information that is reputable or of good report. Such good reports would include the life stories of faithful brothers and sisters, which appear regularly in the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Why not share with others your impressions once you have read these faith-strengthening articles? And how encouraging it is to hear of the spiritual accomplishments of others! Such conversations will build love and unity in the congregation.
14. (a) What does manifesting virtue require of us? (b) How can our speech include praiseworthy things?
14 Paul speaks of “whatever virtue there is.” Virtue refers to goodness or moral excellence. We must be careful that our lips are guided by Scriptural principles and that they do not deviate from what is righteous, chaste, and virtuous. Praiseworthy means “commendable.” If you hear a good talk or notice a faithful example in the congregation, speak about it—both to the person involved and to others. The apostle Paul frequently praised the fine qualities of his fellow worshipers. (Romans 16:12; Philippians 2:19-22; Philemon 4-7) And, of course, the handiwork of our Creator is truly praiseworthy. There we find a wealth of subjects for upbuilding conversations.—Proverbs 6:6-8; 20:12; 26:2.
Engage in Upbuilding Conversations
15. What Scriptural command obligates parents to have meaningful conversations with their children?
15 Deuteronomy 6:6, 7 states: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” Clearly, this command requires that parents have meaningful, spiritual conversations with their children.
16, 17. What can Christian parents learn from the examples of Jehovah and Abraham?
16 We can imagine the long conversations that Jesus must have had with his heavenly Father when they considered his earthly assignment. “The Father himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to tell and what to speak,” Jesus told his disciples. (John 12:49; Deuteronomy 18:18) The patriarch Abraham must have spent many hours talking to his son Isaac about how Jehovah had blessed them and their forefathers. Such conversations surely helped both Jesus and Isaac to submit humbly to God’s will.—Genesis 22:7-9; Matthew 26:39.
17 Our children too need upbuilding conversations. Parents must find time in their busy schedule to talk with their children. If possible, why not arrange to eat together as a family at least once a day? During and after such mealtimes, there will be opportunities for upbuilding discussions that can prove invaluable for the spiritual health of the family.
18. Relate an experience that shows the benefits of good communication between parents and children.
18 Alejandro, a pioneer in his early 20’s, remembers the doubts he harbored as a 14-year-old. He relates: “Because of the influence of schoolmates and teachers, I wasn’t sure about the existence of God and the authenticity of the Bible. My parents spent many hours patiently reasoning with me. These conversations helped me not only to overcome my doubts during this difficult period but also to make good decisions in my life.” And what about now? Alejandro continues: “I still live at home. But our busy schedules make it difficult for my father and me to talk privately. So the two of us eat together once a week at his workplace. I really value these conversations.”
19. Why do all of us need spiritual conversations?
19 Do we not also treasure opportunities to enjoy rewarding spiritual conversations with our fellow believers? These opportunities present themselves at meetings, in the field ministry, and at social gatherings and while traveling. Paul looked forward to talking with the Christians in Rome. “I am longing to see you,” he wrote them, “that there may be an interchange of encouragement among you, by each one through the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:11, 12) “Spiritual conversations with fellow Christians fill a vital need,” observes Johannes, a Christian elder. “They warm the heart and ease the daily load. I often ask elderly ones to tell me about their lives and about what has enabled them to stay faithful. Over the years, I have spoken to many, and each one has imparted some wisdom or enlightenment that has enriched my life.”
20. What can we do if we encounter someone who is shy?
20 What if someone seems unresponsive when you bring up a spiritual subject? Do not give up. Perhaps you can find a more opportune time later. “As apples of gold in silver carvings is a word spoken at the right time for it,” Solomon noted. (Proverbs 25:11) Show understanding to those who are shy. “Counsel in the heart of a man is as deep waters, but the man of discernment is one that will draw it up.”* (Proverbs 20:5) Above all, never let the attitudes of others hold you back from talking about the things that touch your heart.
Spiritual Conversations Are Rewarding
21, 22. What benefits do we derive from participating in spiritual conversations?
21 “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth,” counseled Paul, “but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29; Romans 10:10) It may take effort to steer conversations in the right direction, but the rewards are many. Spiritual conversations enable us to share our faith with others and to build up our brotherhood.
22 Let us, then, use the gift of speech to uplift others and praise God. Such conversations will be a source of satisfaction to us and of encouragement to others. Above all, they will make Jehovah’s heart glad because he pays attention to our conversations and he rejoices when we use our tongue in the right way. (Psalm 139:4; Proverbs 27:11) When our conversations are spiritual, we can be sure that Jehovah will not forget us. Referring to those serving Jehovah in our day, the Bible states: “At that time those in fear of Jehovah spoke with one another, each one with his companion, and Jehovah kept paying attention and listening. And a book of remembrance began to be written up before him for those in fear of Jehovah and for those thinking upon his name.” (Malachi 3:16; 4:5) How vital that our conversations be spiritually upbuilding!
Some wells in Israel were very deep. In Gibeon, archaeologists have discovered a reservoir some 80 feet [25 m] deep. It has steps, which enabled people to descend to the bottom in order to draw up water.
How Would You Answer?
• What do our conversations reveal about us?
• What upbuilding things can we talk about?
• What important role do conversations play in the family circle and in the Christian congregation?
• What benefits do upbuilding conversations bring?
[Pictures on page 12]
Upbuilding conversations center on . . .
“whatever things are true”
“whatever things are of serious concern”
“whatever things are well spoken of”
“whatever praiseworthy thing there is”
Video cover, Stalin: U.S. Army photo; Creator book cover, Eagle Nebula: J. Hester and P. Scowen (AZ State Univ.), NASA
[Picture on page 13]
Mealtimes provide excellent opportunities to engage in spiritual conversations