Ephesians 5:4

Here is my commentary on Ephesians 5:4. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site, http://www.new-life.org.au

Ephesians 5:4

“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”

Paul now turns to the specific speech which should mark the conduct of christians.

In our current culture, we have a very low standard for speech, both in private and public settings. It is not uncommon to hear people shouting words which are generation ago were considered obscene and unsuitable for public utterance.

Political and community leaders have been heard using expletives when they mistakenly thought the microphones were turned off.

Even in church meetings, words which 10 or 20 years ago would have raised eyebrows are spoken without any discomfort.

We have freed up epithets related to sex (although a new form of secular puritanical censorship is emerging that says a new set of words are unacceptable) and banned racial descriptions.

The people of God and not controlled by legalism or political correctness. We are, however, to let our speech be directed by a sense of what is “ fitting” or appropriate for the holy saints of God.

Paul says certain forms of speech are “ out of place.” These things are not sinful or morally wrong. They are simply not suitable given our position in God’s Kingdom.

We do not have a list of words that must not be spoken, as these vary from place to place, culture to culture, time to time. Instead, we need to ensure that our thoughts and the words we speak out loud are led by the Holy Spirit.

The word obscenity here refers to speech that would make a morally sensitive person ashamed. Earlier Paul said that some things should not even be mentioned amongst them.

It is hard to pin down what might be intended here without indulging in the thing being forbidden. It could be assumed that various sexual deviances and practices might be included.

This is not to say that Paul is prohibiting discussion of homosexuality, for example. It is important to say that certain activities are not permissible. Where we might cross the line is where we indulge in too much detail or idle speculation .

“Foolish talk” is the sort of meaningless rubbish that a drunken person might babble.

A lot of social banter might come under this category. A little humour might be considered suitable for breaking ice and oiling social interactions. However if our conversation is limited to reciting Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot” sketch then the Holy Spirit may be lacking.

Instead of merely allowing conversation to remain at a shallow surface level, we should allow our interactions to be used for mutual edification, encouragement, and exhortation.

“Coarse joking” is a form of humour which derives amusement at the expense of others. We might think initially of sexual humour, but it includes every form of jesting which puts people down.

The point is that we are meant to be honouring people who are made in the image of God and for whom Christ died. How do we derive laughter at the cost of any person?

Instead of these forms of speech which Paul says are “ not suitable,” we should practice thankfulness.

Everything we have is a gift from the Lord. “Every good gift comes from above,” James tells us.

Any fool can tell a dirty joke or engage in meaningless twaddle. The person of faith will seek to elevate his or her thinking and speaking in order to honour God in all things. In 1Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul tells us to “ rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

It is God’s will that we learn to rejoice and give thanks in all circumstances. Whereas the unsaved cannot see a reason for what happens in life, the christian can always see God’s hand in their lives and find reasons to give thanks.

This is not a wilful denial of pain and suffering in life. Rather it is a contentment and celebration that in all things God is with us.

Key points in this verse:

  • Some forms of speech and not suitable for the people of God
  • We need to build up others with our words, not tear them down
  • We should make thanksgiving a feature of our speech

Reflection on Matthew 26:1-16


“You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.”


Jesus warns His disciples that He will shortly be handed over to be crucified. At the same time, the leading priests and elders are meeting together to plot how they will capture Jesus and kill Him.

While Jesus is at the home of a man called Simon in Bethany, a woman comes in carrying an alabaster jar of perfume. She pours it over Jesus’ head. The disciples grumble about how the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

Jesus asks them why they are criticising her for doing a good thing for Him. The poor will always be with them, but she has poured out love for Jesus.

After this, Judas goes to the priests and agrees on a price to betray Jesus.


In this short passage, we see some divergent attitudes to money and wealth.

Judas seems to have been interested in money for its own sake, as are many in the world today.

The unnamed woman used her wealth to pour out love and adoration on Jesus.

The disciples think that this money should have been used for something practical rather than “wasted” on Jesus.

The important thing underlying these reactions is the heart attitude towards Jesus. Sometimes we get lost in the need to keep the money coming in for our own needs or for our ministry, or we may forget that our primary mission os to honour Jesus, not to feed the hungry.

Christians can be critical of others for spending money on projects that they do not approve of. Why “waster” money on a building or a basketball court, when it could be used for what I think its important?

If somebody chooses to give money for a building project or a new car for their pastor, if they are doing it from a genuine love for the Lord, who am I to criticise?


Lord, please give me grace to rejoice in every expression of worship and adoration of you. Amen.

Quote for the Day

Church as a people, not an organization, business, or enterprise, is the means by which other people are enfolded into God’s family. Our purpose is redemptive and restorative, not for profit, position, or power.  Scot and Laura McKnight