“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We have all heard it, and most of us have said it at some point in our lives. Yet we all know it is not true: words hurt. They have meaning; they have power; they have purpose-sometimes good, sometimes bad. Words can have a major impact on your life, and the closer you are to someone, the bigger the impact. It is vital that we think about what we say and how we say it before we decide to open our mouths. However, as important as it is to think about how our words will affect others, there is someone even more important that we must think about: God. The words that we say (and how we say them) also affect our relationship with God.
Through His Word, God gives us many guidelines regarding our speech. We are not to gossip, I Tim 5:13 (side note: gossip simply means “idle or useless speech.” You don’t have to be talking bad about someone to be gossiping). We are to be gracious, Col 4:6. We are to be truthful, I Tim 1:10. We are not to use foul language, Eph 5:4, or take the Lord’s name in vain, Exodus 20:7. It is these last two I would like to focus on for a few moments.
Foul language (which would obviously include using God’s name inappropriately) has become much more prevalent during the last few decades. Once upon a time, men would have never cursed with a woman present or in certain social situations. Now, anything goes anytime and women are using as much bad language as men. Foul language seems to be everywhere we turn. I can’t tell you how many TV shows and movies we really wanted to see that my husband and I have turned off because of the language. Ephesians 5:4 says, “Let there be no filthiness or foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” Words matter.
Most people know that obscene and offense language is not acceptable to God, even those who choose to use it. Some people use such language because they simply don’t care, while others have become desensitized by the world. However, there are a lot of people, including Christians, who avoid using “curse” words and instead substitute a word that the world considers less offensive. For example, saying “crap” or “dad gum.” What we need to realize is that these euphemisms are only less offensive to the world. To God, they have the same meaning and offense as the word we are substituting for. They often even sound similar to the original word. Many bad words have become that way because of the way they are used-in an offensive or derogatory way. If we substitute euphemisms, then we are simply making them foul too.
It doesn’t matter how offensive the world considers our language; God is the one that matters. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Bad language, whether it is an actual curse word or a euphemism, must be put away. We can’t use hurtful, offensive language and be true to God.
I have noticed an increasing trend, even in the Lord’s church, over the last several years of people using God’s name in vain more and more frequently. One of the most often heard phrases has simply been shortened to “OMG.” You see and hear it everywhere. It especially saddens me when I hear members of the church saying such things. We are to respect and fear God, but how can we do that when we are throwing His name around for every little thing? And, I hate to tell you, but shortening it to just the abbreviation does not change what you are saying. Idly throwing around the Lord’s name is not acceptable. Anytime you say “Good Lord,” “Lord knows,” etc. without actually referring to and thinking about God, you have taken His name in vain.
As Christians, we are to be separate from the world. While we have to live in the world, people should be able to see a difference in us. That is hard to do when we are using the same kind of language that people of the world use. We should strive to raise the bar, to set a higher standard of what is appropriate and acceptable. Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Whether it is saying the “actual” bad language, using euphemisms, or simply abbreviations, using inappropriate speech is not good nor acceptable nor perfect. Nor is it pleasing to God.
Words are powerful, far more powerful than they get credit for. They have meaning, and they have an affect both on our relationship with other people and with God. In Colossians 3:8-10 we are told, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Our speech must be clean if we are to remain faithful to God.
Matthew 12:36-37 tells us, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Obviously this encompasses more than just using bad language or taking God’s name in vain, but they are most definitely still included. Whether you gossip, lie, mislead, or use inappropriate language, you will have to answer for it some day. When that day comes, I would much rather be justified by the words I have spoken than condemned because of them. Please watch and think about what you say.
By Christie Roberts
Christie and her husband Billy live in Ringling, OK with their three precious children. Christie has a B.A. in English, but is blessed to be able to stay home to care for her family. They worship with the Lone Grove church of Christ where Billy serves as a deacon. Christie enjoys writing and helping with various Bible classes as well as any other opportunities God provides.