Put Away Filthy Language

I remember back when people used to say, “He cusses like a sailor!” That meant someone had a really filthy mouth, or a strong propensity to use vulgar language. Yet, have you noticed how you don’t really hear that phrase as often anymore? So, what changed? Did sailors clean up their act? Or, could it be something else? Sadly, it is something else (sorry, no offense intended to our sailors!) Vulgarity – that is, words that are “common, coarse, or unrefined,” and often called swearing, filthy speech, explicative, or cussing- has become so common place that it is almost impossible to escape. Everywhere you turn, vulgar language is encountered from small children to adults in influential, authoritative positions using it. What used to be banned on regular TV is no longer considered offensive. It seems as if no one is capable of having a conversation these days without inserting foul words. Oh, how society has changed!

The ready acceptance of vulgarity in our society was highlighted in an article that I came across recently, that was discussing the evolution of language. Essentially, the writer was trying to establish the point that cussing has “naturally” become a more common practice in all levels of conversations today, from school classrooms to boardrooms, and no longer limited to bar rooms and locker rooms. He gave many reasons why cussing is now “useful,” “good for you,” and “acceptable.” He went on to explain how words change, evolve and integrate into our regular vernacular. His conclusion was that nothing could be done to stop the etymological processes, so we might as well just embrace the “progress” of how our society communicates today.

While I am truly fascinated by languages and how they have developed, there is one thing that no amount of “progress” will ever change, and that is God’s will concerning what comes out of our mouths. No matter how accepted or common place vulgar language may become , if Scripture calls it a sin, it will always be a sin . The inspired penman, Paul the Apostle, wrote, “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.”(Colossians3:8) The words “filthy language” in that verse are sometimes translated as, “abusive speech, dirty words, shameful speaking, and obscene talk” in other Bible versions. It is only one word in the Greek which literally means, “vile, or foul words and conversation.” This verse teaches us that we are to get rid of such behavior in our lives, to no longer let that be part of our speech. It is a command, not a suggestion. If the commands of Jesus’ apostles are ignored, then it is considered sin (cf. 1 Cor 14:37; James4:17).

In Ephesians 4:29, Paul again admonished, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. “Then also in 5:4, “neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” A good complimentary study to these passages would be James 3. The bottom line is, there is no room in a Christian’s life for cussing, or coarse language. None! According to these verses, a Christian has no business telling dirty jokes, repeating vulgar catch phrases, nor be listening to music (and movies) that have filthy language in them.

The article also implied that using vulgarity was no longer seen as a sign of lower class, uneducated speech nor considered “taboo” for any conversation. However, among those who profess to follow Christ, using profanity is a clear sign of spiritual immaturity, or complete ignorance of what the Scriptures teach about the subject. What comes out of our mouths is just as important (if not more so, in this case) as our actions. Remember, we may be the only Jesus that someone has ever seen, so what kind of impact are you going to have on a soul if you are cussing? How does filthy language bring glory and honor to God? Let us not forget what Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. “Watch what you say! It matters to God!