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Word Wars and How We Live

August 2013
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Word warsI read an interesting article that was posted on Facebook yesterday by J. Lee Grady titled, Why I Don’t Use the F-Word (click here for article). While I don’t keep track of the various issues within the Christian community that are going on out there today, I do know there is a segment of primarily younger folks (well, 40’s and under) within the Christian subculture that think swearing is okay in an effort to be “relevant” to our culture. In this article Mr. Grady discusses the topic and he makes the following three very relevant statements:

1. Filthy talk defiles you and those around you. Jesus said it is not what goes into the mouth of a person that defiles him, but what comes out of his mouth (Matt. 15:11). Then the apostle Paul wrote, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths” (Eph. 4:29, ESV). The word corrupting here refers to rotten fruit or rancid fish. Filthy talk stinks! Dirty words have the power to soil you—and the rancid odor will linger in your soul.

2. Obscene or crude language is a reflection of your inner character. British preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “Beware of everyone who swears: he who would blaspheme his Maker would make no bones of lying or stealing.” Ephesians 5:4 says filthy talk or crude joking are not “befitting” a Christian (ASV). The NIV translates it this way: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place.” If a Christian defiantly insists on talking trash, he has revealed deeper flaws and can’t be trusted.

3. Rough language is a sign of an unsurrendered will. The psalmist wrote, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Ps. 141:3, ESV). Mature Christians invite the Holy Spirit to inspect every area of their lives: attitudes, thoughts, grudges and addictions—as well as coarse language. If you insist on holding on to carnal habits, you are quenching the Spirit’s fire. Your spiritual growth will be forever stunted.

After reading the article, I made the following comment on Facebook and another woman commented on my comment (I’ve included both comments below):

Sara D: Trash talk . . . what about trash action? Looks can kill and physically “say” the same thing as any swear word out there. Let’s not forget there’s a whole lot more to being Christian than just what comes out of the mouth. And, I’d rather hear someone say the “F” word then gossip about others. Gossip destroys people, reputations, lives. The “F” word usually indicates anger at something or someone or because it is just so common now people don’t think twice about saying it. Right or wrong, that’s the way it is in our culture. However, if you want to write an article on “words” write one on the incredible damage brought on by gossip. I’d rather someone say “F” you  then lie about me behind my back with gossip intended to destroy me or my reputation. Think about that . . .

Angela P: You are absolutely right–but Ephesians 4:29 says “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” (emphasis mine). That includes cussing, gossip, slander, anything that brings down another person. And when I hear a string of cuss words coming from someone, either Christian, which should not be happening anyhow but I am not so naïve to think that even with us it doesn’t happen because unfortunately it does, or otherwise- it shows just how limited a vocabulary they have. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t drop an f-bomb if Jesus were standing in front of me- and He is with us always! And I want what comes out of my mouth to reflect Jesus living in me–so I get what you are saying, but swearing and gossip and all that is pretty much in the same category… hope you have a blessed day.

I realized after reading Angela’s response that I may have caused a bit of confusion when I stated in my comment “I’d rather hear someone say the F-word than gossip about others.” Personally, I don’t want to hear either–the F-word or gossip, so I didn’t mean to imply by what I said that swearing was or is okay. But I’ve also lived long enough to know that both are major elements within our culture and, yes, the church culture, too, although within the church culture gossip is the much more pervasive of the two, and I was trying to make a comparison that gossip is every bit has nasty as swearing–in fact, far more so because gossip destroys people and their reputations and nobody seems to think twice about that.

In Mr. Grady’s article, in his first point he makes a statement about what Jesus said in Matthew 15:11 (NIV), “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” However when this verse is taken in context with the surrounding verses, the meaning is not just talking about swearing but goes to a much deeper issue–a heart issue. Let’s reading what Jesus said in the context of the surrounding verses (Matthew 15:1-20):

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
 but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Are-we-living-as-enemies-of-the-CrossThe subject is not just about swearing or using a particular swear word that many folks hate hearing, it’s about much more as Jesus states in vv. 18-20: “. . . the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. It’s about a heart attitude that permeates everything we say and do.

The second reference in Mr. Grady’s first point references the apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:29 NIV (which Angela’s response to me also references): “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.” Taken in context, the topic is much broader and, again, leads to our heart attitude and not just what we do or say outwardly. Here is the passage in Ephesians 4:25-32:

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Again, the passage is talking about a much broader subject than just swearing. We are admonished to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice (and one of our favorite forms of malice is gossip–which is also slander). Paul also tells us to “be kind and compassionate to one another, (well, are we???), forgiving each other (well, do we???), just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Now, I want to make it clear at this point that I am not writing a rebuttal of Mr. Grady’s article because he is absolutely right about the subject of swearing and not just about the “F-word” but about swearing in general. When he quoted Charles Spurgeon in his second point where Spurgeon stated, “Beware of everyone who swears: he who would blaspheme his Maker would make no bones of lying or stealing,” it appears Spurgeon was specifically talking about using God’s name or the name of Jesus Christ as swear words which is just as pervasive in our culture today as saying the “F-word.” If you don’t believe me just watch most of the movies put out by Hollywood nowadays. So while his article specifically references the “F-word” it goes to a much deeper issue.

Also, I realize that Mr. Grady often writes to a younger audience in need of hearing the very things he has to say because our American culture has so inundated the Christian subculture with everything it says and does and offers to us that it has permeated the Church to the point where there is hardly any difference between how Christians live and how the rest of the culture lives. And that is a travesty of huge proportion which is evident by reading most of the New Testament on how we should be living our lives as Christians.

On a personal note, (and I’ve written about this topic before), in the privacy of my own apartment when I am angry I have been known to use the “F-word” as a way of expressing my anger, but I do not do it in the presence of other people nor in public. And I am not using that as an excuse, either. Most of us say and do things in the privacy of our own homes (or cars when we are upset with the traffic or another driver) that we would never thinking of saying or doing out in the public square. And that is an issue we need to bring to God to help us with the circumstances that bring on the angry outbursts and those issues are not for public consumption with others (which usually only leads to gossip). It is personal and private and nobody else’s business.

I agree with Mr. Grady that out in the public arena nowadays hearing someone say the “F-word” is almost as common as hearing someone say “Good morning.” And that says some not-so-great things about our culture as a whole and the general direction it has been going in over the past several decades. Disrespect for others is everywhere nowadays, in both our talk and our actions. And we don’t have to actually say “F-you” with our mouth when we can say it in our attitudes and the looks that we give to others (and yes, Christians folks are good at doing that, too). Nonverbal communication is 80% of all communication, and most of us can read it with 100% accuracy.

Christians are called to live differently, but do we? And that is at the very core of Mr. Grady’s article. Swearing is a clear reflection of a much deeper issue, as is gossip, and slander, and destroying others with our words, and all the other stuff we do to hurt others and then we just sit back and justify what we have done. And when we justify our bad behaviors, that is a classic sign of an unrepentant heart.

In 1976 Francis Schaeffer wrote a book titled, How Should We Then Live?” It’s an excellent book that asks (and answers) an excellent question, and the New Testament is full of advice on how we, as Christians, should live–and it’s not written just so that we can point a finger at others when we think they are not living up to our particular standards (unfortunately, a common trait we, as Christians, have when judging others). No, it’s about how “we” should be living, regardless of how others are living. And Jesus had much to say about that in Matthew 7 (regarding judging others).

Swearing is just one symptom out of hundreds that lead to a much deeper issue, an issue for which Jesus Christ gave His life on the cross. Sin had been around since the days of Adam and Eve and it hasn’t changed one bit in all of these centuries or with all of our modern technology and conveniences or philosophies.

And there is only One cure . . .

And that cure is Jesus Christ . . . .

YouTube Video: I’ve posted this Bob Dylan song, “Gotta Serve Somebody,” a few times in the past but it is so relevant that I am posting it again (sung by Shirley Caesar):

Photo credit #1 here
Photo credit #2 here

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