Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:6)
For centuries, salt has been used as seasoning to give flavor to foods and as a preservative to prevent meat from decaying. Over the years, it’s found many household uses from cleaning to de-icing to health and beauty. From the Morton Salt Company, household tips for using salt in everyday tasks include:
Stain Removal: use salt to clean stains from coffee pots and vases. Salt removes rust from household appliances and bicycles.
Wellness: gargling with salt water alleviates mild sore throats. Soaking in warm salt water soothes tired feet after a long day.
Odor Elimination: salt can remove odors from hands, cutting boards, even garbage disposals.
Salt can do the same for our conversation, removing stains, promoting wellness, and eliminating odors. For our speech to be gracious and seasoned with salt, our words should express tolerance, thankfulness, and kindness.
Words of Tolerance, Not Judgment
Finding fault is easy, but extending grace to others in spite of their weaknesses is not. To express tolerance rather than judgment, author Jill Briscoe explains:
Are you good at making allowances for people? Or do you have ridiculously high expectations?
Our lives should say, “I make allowances for people,” for this is the language of love. Forbearance is a divine quality. Romans 2:4 talks of the kindness, tolerance, and patience of God. His followers should do no less. We ought to willingly make allowances for one another because we love one another. This means I should hold back my quick judgment and should not evaluate or dissect people’s motives.
…Bishop H. C. G. Moule has said that forbearance is “allowing for each other’s frailties and mistakes; aye, when they turn and wound you ‘in love,’ finding it easy to see with their eyes and if need be to take sides with them against yourselves!” That’s making allowances!
Words of Thankfulness, Not Complaint
Dissatisfaction comes easily. Workers complain about their bosses, and supervisors complain about their employees. We grumble if we get behind someone going too slowly, and we grumble if someone rides too closely behind us, making us feel rushed. Complaining is only natural when we are ill or hurt or offended or facing loss. But God calls us to more:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your heart to God. (Colossians 3:16)
One well-loved hymn writer let the Word of God heal his broken heart. The natural response when he faced the loss of his daughters would have been complaining, but Horatio Spafford chose the supernatural response instead when he penned these words in 1873:
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul
Words of Kindness, Not Bitterness
Bring a group of co-workers or neighbors together, and you may find conversation going downhill. Sometimes we forget who is listening. The conversation extends beyond the person I’m speaking with; all those within earshot experience whatever is coming out of my mouth as well.
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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)
By expressing tolerance rather than judgment, thankfulness rather than complaint, and kindness rather than bitterness, we demonstrate the grace that God extended to us in Christ. When we make allowances for the frailties of others, we replace the ugly stains of judgment and bitterness with the beauty of kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness.
When we are marked by thankfulness rather than by complaints spilling out of our mouths, we demonstrate the healing that is available to everyone called by the name of Christ. And while it’s natural to find conversations deteriorating and leaving behind an ugly “odor,” God’s Word teaches us that Christians are the “aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).