What is Edification?

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but only what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Edification is defined as moral improvement or guidance. To edify is to instruct or benefit, especially morally or spiritually. To edify someone is to uplift them in some way.

First recorded in 1350-1400, edification is derived from the Latin word aedification used to describe the “act or process of building a building.” Synonyms for edify are enlighten, uplift, educate, and teach. Though none of these words fully gets at the spirit of the word, to edify certainly encompasses each one of them.

A Decision to Edify Others

When I first discovered the word edification, I was a very sarcastic person. Hearing the word over and over at a business conference when I was about 30 flipped a switch for me, and I purposed to change my sarcastic demeaner and to instead become known as an encourager.

When people thought of me, I wanted them to say I built them up and maybe even enlightened, uplifted, educated, or taught them something. Though seen as having quick wit, even if laced with sarcasm, I no longer wanted to live in back-and-forth, one-up relationships but instead in ones that progressed, flourished, and deepened.

When I first began this journey, I got questioning looks as I kept quiet instead of responding quickly with a sarcastic comment. Some people didn’t know how to interact with me anymore. I persevered, though, because I somehow sensed my legacy was at stake.

To be known as an encourager and edifier is still a goal for me today. I’m not sure how well I live this, but I can say it’s always my intention. Fortunately, the Bible continually reminds me to be an encourager and to edify others.

“There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword. But the tongue of the wise promotes health.” (Proverbs 12:18)

“Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

As sarcasm faded from my heart, I found life in giving and receiving encouragement. Building another up and being built up imparts grace to others. In other words, it makes grace known, it communicates grace, and it shares grace. Yes, that’s how I want to be known.

How to Become an Edifier

Edification begins first by restraining the tongue. A familiar adage serves us well here.

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Restraining my tongue on my own was fruitless, though.

“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:7-8)

I needed the Holy Spirit’s help for that kind of self-control.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Once this restraint began to take hold and sarcasm began to fade, my spirit had increasingly more room for positive pursuits. As edification grew as a habit, I began to listen to others. I discovered that truly being heard opened the doors for receiving encouragement. Said another way, if others are not truly heard, they will struggle receiving encouragement in a way that builds them up for the long term.

This journey, a path I am still progressing down, exists as a soul motivation for me. I still purpose to edify others, first through restraint of the tongue and then through listening and encouraging. I have, by far, not done this perfectly.

When I am discouraged or depressed, I struggle to interact in a positive, edifying way. Yet, I keep returning to that goal of edifying others. The motivation to do so is growing, too, as the world becomes an increasingly discouraging place.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Edifying others is a conscious decision. We must “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” It won’t happen on its own but rather through many small decisions that grow and merge to create a habit. God is faithful, and the hope he gives provides the motivation we need to be known for edification.