Saturday, August 09, 2008

Being Careful With Our Speech

I was reading Proverbs 8 yesterday morning, and have been working on this post ever since. These are some of the things that wisdom says:

Proverbs 8:8
“All the words of my mouth are with righteousness;
Nothing crooked or perverse is in them.”

Proverbs 8:13
“The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverse mouth I hate.”

I’ve stumbled across a lot of blog discussions on Christian blogs about language. Lots of people seem to want to justify using bad language with arguments that we have freedom, we shouldn’t judge others, bad language is a cultural thing - meaning not all cultures would consider the same words bad, they say we have arbitrary ‘lists’ of what we consider bad language, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, until your eyes glaze over and your heart sinks and depression could set in if you don’t quit reading. And it’s sort of implied that those of us who choose not to use language that is offensive and who think someone who belongs to Christ ought to have clean speech are just old-fashioned, prudish and not wanting to reach the culture.

I think they protest too much. I think some of the arguments I have read are immature at best and rebellious in some cases. When the Bible says that it is wisdom for all the words of my mouth to be with righteousness, and that the perverse mouth is not wise and is actually hateful, we shouldn’t be playing around arguing and blabbering about what words are arbitrarily bad or flirting around with some invisible line to see how worldly our speech can be. We ought to err on the side of righteousness and avoid all appearance of evil. Words have meaning, and we need to be careful with them.

A lot of the people I’ve seen trying to defend less-than-lovely speech will argue that they are just trying to relate to people in today’s culture. I believe you can do that, and should do that, without adopting language that is not pure. You don’t have to use crude and unnecessary language to befriend and talk to people. If you can’t have a meaningful conversation without obscenities or even merely questionable phrases or unkind phrases, perhaps it’s time to expand your vocabulary. It’s not prudish to take care with our speech and to attempt to be above reproach. It is actually an attempt to be kind to others and to not be a stumbling block when we guard our speech and plan to keep it free of unnecessary phrases or words that are offensive to a lot of people. I hardly think that you will lose an opportunity to witness because you choose not to use certain words in your speech. You don’t have to bash the ones you are trying to win over the head about their use of the words, but you don’t have to mimic them, either.

In my own life, I try to avoid using words or phrases that would get my children into trouble if they used them. If my kids shouldn’t be cussing or using crude speech, neither should I. I also don’t use language in private that I would not want someone from church or anywhere else knowing that I said. I don’t want to be different in private than I am in public. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. That’s because, for one thing, I don’t want to be a stumbling block to anyone, not that I’m trying to win the applause of men, but that I want my life to be conformed to Christ Jesus. I am saved by His grace. Because I love Him, I want to think about things and talk about things that are honorable and true and pure and lovely - as a rule of life, publicly and privately. He is the One I answer to and will be held accountable to for all my speech. That’s a heavy thing to think about, that I’ll give an account for every word I say. I know that I don’t really think seriously enough about that sometimes.

I really don’t get why this is so hard and worthy of so many heated blog discussions (trust me, I've seen bunches of them, and they can become very heated). That's why I'm posting this with a bit of trepidation and I think I'm going to walk away from my computer once I get this finished and hope for the best. Our speech is to be seasoned with grace and gentleness. James tells us to lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness (James 1:21). That’s kind of hard to do when you’re sprinkling four-letter words and obscenities around or even just plain careless speech. I hardly think that if we put that kind of standard on our speech we would be able with a straight face and honest heart to say that the kinds of words some of those discussions are trying to justify using would honestly be considered appropriate or useful. Let’s face it, even those who are still of the world know that certain speech is vulgar or offensive or unnecessary. Even if they use it themselves, most people know obscenity or crass or hateful, unkind speech when they hear it. I’m not saying I’m going to act as the language police and go around correcting everyone - that's not my job. Some of the discussion may possibly fall under the 'weaker brother' kind of argument, I don't know, and we need to follow our own conscience and trust the Lord to teach us how to apply His word in our speech and also we need to be careful not to condemn or judge others' motives too harshly. When we are Christians, we do have things that we are having pruned away in our lives and we all have differing things that are stumbling blocks for us, and growing in grace is a process. But I am saying it is foolish to try to argue that it’s good, righteous, graceful, gentle or honorable to make a habit out of using gutter language or demeaning language, too.

I know sometimes in the heat of the moment, things can pop out of our mouths that we regret whether actually a ‘cuss’ word or maybe just an unkind thought, especially if unsanctified speech has been a part of our past. That’s one reason it’s really important to stop and consider what we will say when that heat of the moment begins to rise and to learn to control our temper and to pray for the Holy Spirit to help us to put a guard on our tongues and to bring His word to remembrance. But I really don’t understand trying to justify or excuse away the use of those regretful things.That's also one reason it is important to retrain out thinking. Instead of thinking how close to the line we can come, we should be training ourselves to think righteous and godly thoughts.

I was listening to Alistair Begg on Thursday, and he gave a guideline for our speech that was extremely helpful. It was actually in the context of not gossiping or being hypercritical and being forgiving, but it’s appropriate to all speech. Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? Seems to me that if we all took a serious look at those questions and honestly applied them to our daily speech, there would be a lot more of even our regular speech going unsaid. Not to mention that it pretty much wipes out the argument for using crude or obscene or cussing speech. I can’t think of too many times where that could truthfully be said to be necessary, true or kind. Enough said.

1 comment:

Veronica said...

So true! Thanks for a great reminder!!