Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Newsflash: The Bible calls for decency and wholesome speech

It took me all of five minutes to find the exact chapter and verses cited below. Why then do I happen upon so many individuals who say “I believe in Jesus” or “Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain” yet who turn around and cuss their fellow man liberally with another liberal dose of filthy language?

For starters, one has virtually no good reason to curse his fellow man:

8 But the tongue can no man tame; [it is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet [water] and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so [can] no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. 13 Who [is] a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. (James 3.8-13)


Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (Ephesians 4.29)

To be sure, there are a number of instances in the Pauline epistles (e.g., 1 Cor 16.22) where the apostle Paul apparently utters imprecatory words. However, the why-s of how such a thing is permissible are probably answered by the very questions that our brother James poses in James 3.8-12. If people are under the divine obligation to love their neighbors as themselves, then what room is there for cursing these neighbors in any fashion? Or if one is to maintain an attitude--from day to day and from minute to minute--which is conducive to one’s fulfilling the Second Greatest Commandment without fail, what license can be given to one’s cursing another person under his breath though not in the hearing of this other person?

So it seems reasonable to suggest that on a practical level imprecatory words can be an impediment to obedience to the Second Greatest Commandment; of course, it is clear that at some extent one’s obligations in this regard come to an end (for there is nothing loving about capital punishment though it is mandated in Genesis, chapter nine, to cite one example). Still, the main point remains: James says what he says in James 3.8-13 and the words of Paul in Ephesian 4.29 are likewise clear, and this is relevant if we take cussing and cursing to be one and the same thing.


Meanwhile, in this discussion one need not parse any of the following:

But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. (Colossians 3.8)

Filthy language exists, and on some level one knows it and recognizes it as such when he encounters it.

Now consider the twin passage of Colossians 3, or rather the fourth verse of the twin passage:

3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. (Ephesians 5.3-4, NKJV)

Coarse joking is unfitting of saints.


Finally, Mark 7.20-23:

20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Lasciviousness itself apparently is often a product of the moral failure of coarse joking and in other instances filthy language. In the former case, if you have two co-workers of the opposite sex together in the same work environment things can happen, and have happened. In the latter case, it bears noting that the gradual moral decline of broadcast TV with its loosening of self-imposed standards began first with TV networks’ trying to be “edgy.” This began when Fox and the Big 3 began to lose ratings to cable TV and it was decided to bring in some “edgy” language to draw or to keep viewers; twenty years later we are where we are now with the (unreliable) ratings of TV-PG, TV-14, etc. which pertain not only to language and violence.

Anyway, the reason I mention all of the simple and rudimentary information above is the very real failure of the church to properly deal with unbelievers who pass themselves off as Christians or Christians who showed up for one sermon on one Sunday last year and whose moral instruction is nil and whose frequency of Bible reading is also nonexistent.

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