Watch Your Language
The other night I was participating with our local firefighters as the chaplain (as I normally would). At one point we were taking about a particular fire where many things went wrong and poor decisions were made, and I let out a curse word, not in anger, but as an observation of the situation. The reaction was immediate and shocking to these firefighters, who I’ve journeyed with over the last 3 years. They couldn’t believe I said it. One commented, “we’re rubbing off on you”. This caused a couple of observations:
1. They know that I don’t cuss or curse. That’s why it was so shocking to them. It let me know that they noticed my behavior.
2. By speaking the words, even in jest, I had compromised my integrity. While I may have felt like “one of the guys,” I let my Lord down.
Why is cursing or swearing such a big deal? Some say, “It’s just a word.” Of course, I could flip that around and say, “if it’s just a word then why say it?” Because it’s not just a word. We know it evokes a reaction, which is why we say it and repeat it until it just becomes part of our normal vocabulary.
Obviously the Ten Commandments tell us not to use the Lord’s name in vain. This is particularly heinous because we are directly denigrating the Lord by using his name in a way which does not bring honor and glory to him. But what about other “four letter words”? What’s the big deal in using them?
The Apostle Paul helps us here. In Ephesians 5:4 Paul specifically addresses the language of children of God who walk in the way of love and follow the example of Christ.
“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” This is very clear, but this isn’t merely about avoiding the use of bad words, it is about using our words in ways which bring glory to God.
A few verses earlier in Eph. 4:29, Paul wrote,
“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.”
When we just focus on our use of “bad words”, and “cleaning up our language”, we tend to miss the point. It’s not simply about stopping the use of bad words, it’s about our words reflecting Jesus and using words that “build others up” in love. When we cuss, are we reflecting Jesus? Are we bringing him honor and glory?
But what about the rest of our language, perhaps we don’t swear but we speak negatively, criticizing others, complaining, arguing, and tearing others down with our words. This passage reminds us that our words matter to God, and they should honor God and build others up.
Think about your language and how you speak to others and about others? Do your words usually honor God and build others up in love, or do they tear down? Our goal as Christians is to reflect Jesus and honor God in all aspects of our life including our words. If you tend to use cuss words frequently how will you make a commitment to cleaning up your language? Even better, how will you seek to speak more positively to and with others? Fortunately, when we are in Christ, as children of God, we have God’s Spirit to help and empower us to follow him and do the right thing. God does not leave us alone in our journey to figure it out and do it ourselves. He equips us with the ability to do it. But we have to do our part as well, trusting in him to give us what we need as we seek to “repent” and follow God’s ways.
In your next conversation with someone commit to speaking words that will encourage them or build them up. Perhaps it could be asking how they are doing (and really meaning it) and truly listening to their response with empathy, or thanking them for something they did, or noticing they did something well and commenting on it, “I really appreciate it when you…” “Your really good at…”