James 3:1-5 – “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.” NKJV
Before I even start my title lost some and they will never read or hear what I am saying so I will not try to address them and turn my attention to those who will hear the conclusion of the whole matter before rendering a judgment. Another question would be, “What is profanity?” If we truly believe that ‘words have meaning’ and ‘how we speak reflects the heart’ this discussion is important and could be beneficial. If we believe that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks we need to consider the topic.
Clearly the Bible gives no exhaustive list of banned words. How could it with the continual evolution and change of language. Some words mean one thing in one region and something entirely different in another. Some of my British friends and I have laughed at the difference in the same English language in the use of words. We speak the same language and sometimes are unable to communicate. I won’t go into the words but some words we use in America are considered terrible profanities and insults to the British and some of their words, to us, seem almost nonsensical. What is deemed slang or colloquialism to one is perfectly proper and acceptable to others so it seems.
According to many Greek Authorities when the Bible speaks of things like “filthy” talking (Ephesians 5:4) the word is (aischrotes) and includes behavior that flouts social and moral standards, shamefulness and obscenity. Shameful speech as mentioned in Colossians 3:8 is (aischrologia) meaning speech that is in poor taste, obscene or dirty talk. In 2 Peter 2:18 we find a reference to lascivious speech conjures sexually illicit or explicit images or ideas. In Ephesians 4:29 we find corrupt speech which is morally unwholesome and harmful. In Ephesians 5:4 we discover foolish talking which by implication reflects a stupid mind and jesting suggests off color humor.
Having said that I have said little because there is much subjectivity in defining and determining what those things entail and how they are defined. I contend that words become profane when sacred meanings are treated in a common or trivial fashion. Remember in Exodus 20:7 the commandment was “You shall not take the name of Jehovah your God in vain.” I believe that the foundational application of that was in reference to a false oath. In the Law of Moses the NAME of God was not to be profaned. The context had to do with how God’s name was used in the environment of pagan worship. Could that also apply to taking the sacred name of God and transporting it to the domain of the secular? How about, “Oh my God!” or “Lordy mercy!” and “Jesus Christ!”?
In Matthew 12:5 and Acts 24:6 we find the Greek word ‘bebeloo’ translated PROFANE and it is defined as causing something highly revered to become identified with the commonplace. What am I saying? I suggest that all of us are too casual with our use of words, especially words that include or contain the name or reference to God.
In the Bible to ‘curse’ is to utter a malediction upon someone and is used legitimately with regard to a pronouncement of judgment as in Galatians 3:10 or Hebrews 6:8 but what about in anger, flippantly or whimsically such as, “You go to hell!” or “Damn you!”? The words hell or damn or not inherently evil in themselves but when used hatefully, vindictively or in a pejorative fashion they become wrong. The use of the word fool must be included in that discussion.
I had someone tell me that when the Bible said that Peter “cursed and swore” it meant he engaged in a profanity laced outburst. I believe the context indicates that he denied the Lord and to reinforce his denial called down curses upon himself as was common in his day. We are told in Colossians 4:6 to “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”
I only ask that you and I consider our pet phrases and use of words and allow the Holy Spirit to identify if they are becoming to our testimony or should be omitted from our speech. I want my speech to be pleasing to the LORD and acknowledge that I am as guilty, or more so than you on this front.
God help us and God bless you as you move forward in life.