“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.” – Ephesians 4:29
Let’s be honest with each other: Sometimes our family members drive us up the wall. I love my wife and kids, but at times the stay-at-home order really tested my patience. If you ask me, I’ll tell you that I’m an easy guy to live with. But lately—for some reason—my wife has thought about joining a convent and my kids want to move in with Brandma. Perhaps I’m not as easy to live with as I thought.
According to James 1:4, God sends His followers trials in order to help us become more mature and complete. And one of the trials He gives us every day is the “relationship trial.” Relationships at home, church, work, and school are incubators for growth. And the fact is: We will never become spiritually mature until we learn how to maintain our sanity in our relationships.
Consider this: When you say, “So-and-so is driving me crazy!” that statement says more about your immaturity than it does about the other person. Why? Because without your permission, your “annoying” family member couldn’t drive you anywhere. But when you and I are immature, we allow family, friends and even perfect strangers to drive us from zero to crazy in five seconds or less.
The more immature you are, the more you’ll be annoyed by others around you. So, one of the secrets to maintaining your sanity in your relationships is to grow up—becoming more and more like Jesus. To whatever extent you become more like Christ in your relationships, to that same extent you’ll be at peace in your relationships.
About five years ago, Thom Rainier, a popular and respected church leader and consultant, posted a survey on Twitter. He asked church leaders to share some of the silly things that Christians in their churches had argued about. In the days that followed, he was blown away by the number of responses. One church’s leaders argued about the “appropriate length” of the worship leader’s beard. Another group of Christians fussed over what type of green beans should be served at church events. Yet another church argued about whether or not it’s a sin to serve “deviled” eggs at church, while two other churches argued about whether or not to switch coffee brands. (Believe it or not, some Christians left one of the churches because they didn’t like the coffee that was chosen.)
We laugh about some of these stupid, childish arguments that took place in actual churches. But, actually, we should cry! After all, the Church of Jesus Christ proclaims the Living God and the message of salvation to a lost and dying world. But far too often our petty squabbles push people away from the Church and bring shame to God. Do you think for a moment that any of these church battles mentioned above drew people closer to Christ? Do you think that non-Christians flocked to the church when they learned that its leaders were arguing about deviled eggs? Do you think that Jesus was glorified by the battles fought over green beans and coffee? Hardly!
We have to remember that the world is watching us and making judgments about the Church and Christ based on our how we treat each other. So, whether we are at home, church, work or school, we must be careful to treat each other in a way that honors God and draws people to Christ. Husbands and wives, never forget that people hear how you speak to each other in public, and they take note that you are Christians. Parents, non-Christians listen to how you speak to your kids and grandkids at WinCo and take note that you are followers of Christ. The world is watching and listening.
God’s word tells us in Ephesians 4:29: “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.” The word “unwholesome” is a translation of a Greek term that was used in Jesus’ day to describe stinky, rotting fish. Isn’t that a powerful word picture? Jesus Christ tells his followers—you and me—“You should never have stinky, rotting fish come out of your mouths. Your harsh, silly, immature arguments are like stinky fish to God. Your criticism is like stinky fish to God. And your grumbling and complaining are like stinky fish to God.”
Would you agree that there’s far too much stinky fish in our churches? In our workplaces? On social media? In our political campaigns? And in our homes? One of the reasons our family members are driving us crazy during COVID is because there is too much stinky fish in our homes. Our homes should be a consistent contrast to the petty arguments, criticism and judgment that are so prevalent outside our four walls. Our homes should be a place where we build each other up according to each family member’s needs. Our homes should be a place where our words benefit those who listen.
Perhaps God is leading you to have a heart-to-heart with your family today. If so, I encourage you to humble yourself before you family—sharing Ephesians 4:29 with them and confessing that you yourself have been guilty of speaking words that have torn down instead of built up. Ask your family to join you in drawing a line in the sand today: committing to eliminate silly arguments, harsh criticism and judgment from your home. Make a commitment to encourage each other, build each other up according to each person’s needs and speak words that benefit those who listen. If you and your family commit to living out Ephesians 4:29 every day, is there any doubt that you’ll be saying far less often, “You’re driving me crazy!”?
Dane Davis is the Pastor
of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our live outdoor worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at