As Christ-followers, what place does profanity have in our lives? Is there a link between the words that flow out of our mouths and the condition of our hearts? What does the Bible have to say about these things?
There really is no nice way to say this: we’ve gotten sloppy in our speaking habits. We’ve turned the other ear as profanity and vulgarity have overtaken our conversations and polluted the airwaves, and we’ve even grown numb to their offensiveness.
In a society of pants worn too low and skirts worn too high; of talking too loudly on your cell phone in public; of smoking outside of the entrances to public buildings; and of baseball caps worn inside, evidences of propriety seem on the decline. But, while instances of indecorum abound, they are perhaps nowhere more evident than in our language.
Where’s the soap?
A survey by the Parents Television Council indicated that between the years of 2005 and 2010, instances of profanity on TV were up 69 percent! More recently, a new poll by Hollywood Reporter and Morning Consult revealed that 73% of people surveyed believe that profanity on TV is “more common” than it was five years ago.
Moreover, vain attempts by editors at “bleeping” are frankly inept and have become attempts more at humor than concealment. Isn’t it interesting how camera people at football games always seem to “accidentally” zoom in on the coach’s face just as he unloads a stream of profanity? At least Tom Hanks pretended to be offended by his own vulgar outburst on national television. But that, too, was giggled away; giving further evidence of the blowsy and untidy way we have failed to guard our conversations.
Now, we have developed cute levels of acceptable and unacceptable words, with only the highest level of caution reserved for the less-vulgar-than-it-used-to-be f-bomb.
Profanity isn’t just inconsiderate, and rebellious; it’s a sign of unintelligence, adolescence, and a weak vocabulary. It’s a poor example to our children and a negative witness of our faith (James 1:26-27). If we can’t control our tongues, it’s probably an indication of a lack of control in other areas, as well (Matthew 12:34).
Sadly, I’ve even heard curse words used in the pulpit with the sardonic retort, “some of you are more concerned that I used that word than you are about people who are lost and going to hell.” But, let’s be honest, the cause of evangelism is not advanced by a silly attempt at humor using shock value. Instead, we’ve rationalized the offensive under spiritual pretenses.
Another phenomenon that oddly has even grown popular among believers is the use of near profanity. This is the effort toward trying to sound like profanity without actually using the offensive words. Though, in truth, most of the words we interchange for curse words are simply derivatives of the words for which they are substituted. It’s really nothing more than expletive hypocrisy. It’s using the same tone and carrying the same meaning without using the same words. The book of Proverbs has much to say about our speech (4:23-25; 8:12-14; 10:11; 10:31-32)
But the most offensive evidence of impropriety in our conversations relates to taking the name of the Lord in vain. Careless misuse of the Divine name has grown much too commonplace. As James reminded us, “My Brethren, these things ought not be so.”
The Lord’s holy name should never be used accompanying curse words or as an expression of exasperation. Moreover, the flippant use of OMG or merely slurring the pronunciation of the words those letters represent doesn’t make the expression less disrespectful. The bottom line is, if you are not talking to Him or about Him, His name ought not to be a part of your conversation. Anything else is taking it in vain. It’s a violation of the 3rdCommandment, and worse, it is an offense to our Lord.
Clean it up
It’s time for believers to take back our conversations. We need to be offended again by vulgar language and shamed when it is a part of our own speaking habits. It’s time to make a commitment to clean up our language, control our tempers, and improve our vocabulary. Start by identifying offensive words. Ask the Lord to direct your conversation. Make a commitment and stick to it.
Zig Ziglar once said, “Hypocrisy is complaining about the sex, drugs, and violence on our VCR’s.” In truth, before we can reform Hollywood, we need to start at home. TV is just a reflection of what we have determined entertains us. Maybe mom was right. We may need to wash our mouths out with soap.