The word “profanity” comes from the root word “profane.” The word profane, according to “Merriam-Webster’s” online dictionary means: (1) to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverance or contempt; (2) to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use…therefore profanity is the use of “language that treats sacred things with abuse, irreverance or contempt…language that debases things or others.” As Christians and “temples of the Holy Spirit” we should not want to say things that reflect irreverance upon the name of Christ, nor should we use our language in a way that dishonors Christ.
Isn’t it interesting that even the “world” recognizes the use of “profane language.” This is regularly seen when one picks up a movie and it says something like: “Rated PG-13 for profanity or explicit language.” Many individuals who reject Christ and His Word know that there is a difference between “language” and “explicit or profane language.” (Let me run a little rabbit trail here…that line continues to be blurred and I am sure that one day in the not too distant future the line will dissapear as far as the world is concerned).
So what does the Bible have to say about this subject? After all, that is the standard…certainly not Hollywood’s rating system. Certainly not a list that changes from state to state. What type of language should we and should we not be comfortable with?
In Ephesians 4:29 the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to instruct Christians regarding their language (this certainly isn’t a comprehensive view of acceptable language…we are just looking at one passage to help us with this issue today). He says: 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. He goes on to indicate that when Christians do such things we “grieve the Holy Spirit” that lives within us (see also verse 30).
Paul makes it explicitly clear that we are to stay away from “corrupt communication.” This refers to: polluting, evil and even worthless language. If we breath polluted air we are taking in the toxins that are in the air and breathing them into our lungs. The same is true with profanity…it is spoken, then it is heard, then it is processed in the brain and then it produces thoughts that are not appropriate and finally produces a response. Others are affected either positively or negatively by the words we say and even the tone we use. Therefore, as a Christian, and as an individual who should be seeking to live their lives to please and honor Christ, we should not say or write things that would “pollute” someone else’s thought process. Scripture reminds us that we will be held accountable for the words that we use!
Paul then gives us HOW we should use our language. First of all are to use words that“edify.” Words that “edify” are words that are spiritually beneficial for others…they are words that BUILD UP! Do the words you use BUILD UP others? You see I think some people think that as long as they stay away from the “bad word list” they are ok. However, you can stay away from your list and still use your mouth to hinder people’s faith and discourage people in their walk for the Lord. This is corrupt communication as well.
Secondly, our speech is supposed to minister grace to the hearers. How can the words you use minister grace to someone else? Grace, as far as our salvation is concerned refers to God’s undeserved favor toward us. It is through this undeserved favor that our sins can be forgiven and we can become part of the family of God. Therefore, God’s grace helps or enables us to be delivered from the penalty of our sin. Then we think of what some refer to as “sustaining grace.” Sustaining grace is God’s undeserved help from day to day to face whatever may come our way. In this passage we are told that God can use our words to minister grace or help to someone else. How can help someone else if the language we are using doesn’t honor the Holy Spirit that resides in us…if the language we are using treats that which God calls sacred as something that common and unimportant?
May we as Christians never get comfortable with language that doesn’t glorify God (give a right representation of Him to the world), that doesn’t build up another Christian, or that doesn’t help others clearly see the Christ of Calvary and help God’s family to grow in the grace and knowledge of Him.
Yes I think we should stay away from the “list” but I hope it goes far deeper than that. I hope we will look deep within our hearts and think about this verse the next time we open our mouths.