“Meme, why does sin make us say bad words?” our daughter’s oldest son asked.

Although only 8 years old as of this writing, he’s always manufactured some thoughtful questions. Questions our daughter, as well as Meme and Pop, have to think about before we answer.

“What kind of words,” Meme prompted him.

“Like, %5E%#&#$%,” he replied.

Meme went into shock until I reminded her he was simply telling her the word. “Where did you hear that?” she asked.

“On a movie.” (And not a bad movie, but one that had a few unsavory words in it.)

While initially shocking, the question gave Meme and Pop an ideal scenario to discuss what words we should and should not use and why. The question also allowed us to discuss sin and how it affects our actions, attitudes and words. And we didn’t have to bring the subject up. We merely used a normal conversation and turned it into a teachable moment.

I’ve known a few folks in my life who claimed to be Christians yet let curse words slip from their mouths regularly. I’ve always thought that when unwholesome language does slips out without the person thinking — and often — it usually shows their normal way of talking.

I’m certainly not the judge. I’ve dealt with periods in my life when I fought with the temptation to say things I shouldn’t, too.

Paul, however, serves as a juror at the behest of God’s Spirit when he tells believers not to use foul or abusive language — which includes more than curse words. One translation used the term “unwholesome.”

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT).

What we say reflects our inside — not the shape the organs of our bodies are in, but the shape our heart is in. Words reflect our character, and our character tells who we truly are.

Paul suggests an alternative to curse words or to words that simply have no value: use good and helpful words. When we use these types of words, we encourage others, rather than drag them down or abuse them. We build them up and point them to the One who can do amazing things in their lives.

Let your words encourage rather than discourage.

Martin Wiles, founder of Love Lines from God, lives in Greenwood. He serves as managing editor for Christian Devotions and as a proof-editor for Courier Publishing. Wiles is the pastor of Buffalo Baptist Church in McCormick.