What the (bleep)?
How would you fill in the blank if you were going to pick a bad word? What is profanity to you? Is your definition of bad language the same as your parents or grandparents? Is there a standard to live by or is it simply a moving target with culture?
Colossians 3:8 says, “You must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” So if God wants our mouths to be rid of “filthy” language, how do we know what that is? Here are a couple of thoughts.
1. Bad Language Is Defined By Others
Ephesians 4:29 – Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Every culture has words or phrases it deems as inappropriate, even by non-Christian standards. Years ago, I remember visiting France and interacting with many people who didn’t speak English. With only a small understanding of French, I had to rely on hand gestures and drawing pictures.
On one occasion, I wanted clarification on a certain word that I had heard so I asked my French acquaintance. When I said the word his jaw dropped and he told me to never say the word again. For him, it was like poison to his ears, but for me, it was simply repeating sounds. I didn’t feel any sense of guilt or remorse except for the fact that he was impacted by my word. I found out later I was dropping the f-bomb.
I learned something that day about profanity that has stayed with me through the years. The definition of a bad word has more to do with the listener than the speaker.
In other words, it’s not about what bothers me when I speak, it’s about what bothers others when I speak. The sin of “filthy” language takes place by “how” my words will impact others, not by my view of the words themselves. Therefore, it is important to be sensitive to others and refrain from speaking in a way that is offensive, regardless if I think the words are good or bad.
2. Bad Language is Also Defined by You
Matthew 12:34b-35 – For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
Back in the day, your mother would wash your mouth out with soap if you slipped up and said a cuss word. Although a memorable experience, it isn’t about a clean mouth, it’s about a clean heart. Scripture highlights that our mouths reflect what is in our heart and if your heart is in a bad place, your mouth will soon follow.
We all know deep down in our hearts what we view as inappropriate to talk about or say. We all have our personal catalog of profanity that we view as wrong. When we cross those lines, we are sinning against God because, as Christians, God will often use our conscience to keep us on track with Him. (c.f. Acts 24:16)
Therefore, it is important that you monitor your own mouth and guard against speaking in a way that violates your own heart, regardless of the opinion of others or what they may deem as right or wrong.
So when we talk about having a dirty mouth, it is a both/and thought process that should include not only what you think but also what others think as well.
How would you rate your mouth? What is God prompting you to adjust or change?
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