“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6, NIV
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6, ESV
“Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Colossians 4:6, KJV
“Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Colossians 4:6, NASB:
“Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:6 NLT
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” Colossians 4:6, CSB
What does Colossians 4:6 mean?
So far, Paul has presented evangelism as a work of prayer (Colossians 4:2–3), a work of clear communication (Colossians 4:4), and a matter of wisdom and making the most of each opportunity (Colossians 4:5). A fifth principle for effective outreach is given here, the idea of gracious or kind speech.
In Paul’s time, salt served primarily as a preservative, keeping meat from spoiling. It was valuable enough to be used as a form of currency. And, of course, it changes the flavor of whatever it is added to. In that regard, Paul’s use of this metaphor has more than one meaning. The believer’s words are to preserve the message of Christ, helping it effectively reach as many people as possible. What a Christian says ought to add value to the conversation; our words should be uplifting or helpful. Finally, the truth of our renewed Christian lives ought to be clear in the different “flavor” of how we speak and act.
Another aspect of gracious speech is the ability to answer the questions of unbelievers. Peter also noted the importance of this area of ministry, saying, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Communicating Christ includes both a positive presentation of the gospel and the ability to defend it (Titus 1:9). Mere knowledge is not all that is required. In order to give an answer in a truly “Christian” way, a person must present truth using proper words and a proper attitude.
Colossians 4:2–6 completes the main substance of Paul’s letter. This passage starts with a request for personal prayer, then transitions into a command regarding how Christians speak. Paul uses the metaphor of salt. Salt, in Paul’s day, was valuable enough to be used as money, and was treasured for its ability to preserve and flavor foods. In the same way, a Christian’s speech should be helpful and valuable, ”flavored” differently from the speech of non-believers, and preserving the message of Christ.