By Marc W. Gibson
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). This command from the apostle Paul is one of several that he gives concerning the activity of a Christian who is “renewed in the spirit of your mind, and . . . created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness” (vv. 23-24). Since God is holy and righteous, the Christian is to be holy in all conduct (1 Pet. 1:15-16), and to practice righteousness (1 John 3:7). Holy conduct results from a heart that is clean and pure. Unholy conduct portrays a heart that is full of filth. One of the quickest ways that a person can demonstrate the condition of his heart is to open his mouth and talk.
Filthy speech is condemned as one of the “members which are on the earth . . . But now you must put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth . . .” (Col. 3:5, 8). This shameful speech “denotes any kind of base utterance, the utterance of an uncontrolled tongue” (Vine). It is obscene and impure, and should not be “named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Eph. 5:3-4).
The Pervasiveness of Filthy Speech
The problem of filthy speech is made all the worse due to its pervasiveness. It is a common rite of passage for young men to start talking filthy like their older male relatives and friends. Various forms of modern media are filled with it. Most of what is offered on our televisions and in theaters is overflowing with suggestive and filthy language. It is used so freely because it easily elicits attention, shock, and laughter. People who are normally shy about using gutter language will gladly pay to hear someone spew verbal garbage. The Christian in the workplace is often subjected to trashy talk and foul language in personal conversations and meetings. Innocent sporting events are ruined by fans who express themselves with obscene gestures and chants. Popular books and magazines deliver to the mind’s eye the crass cursing and swearing of the world. Nearly everywhere one goes, the eyes and ears are bombarded with crude language that appeals to the sensual and the base things of this earth, not to mention the constant blasphemy of taking God’s name in vain. What is the Christian to do?
How to Deal With This Serious Danger
The danger involved is not insignificant. Filthy language comes from filthy sources, and we can easily become acclimated to such filth. The Christian must not allow his inner person to find any comfort, excitement, or humor in such communication. We would be sickened at the thought of eating rotten food, yet Jesus identified true defilement as that which comes out of the mouth: “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man” (Matt. 15:18). Our mind must filter what comes into our eyes and ears daily. This necessitates that we first clean out the filth that may already be in us. “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin and unrighteousness, both for the penitent believer who is baptized into Christ, and for the Christian who confesses his sins (Acts 22:16; 1 John 1:7-9). A person that is filled with Christ and his word has the best defense against the contamination of filthy speech. An immediate and repulsive reaction will result against anything that would threaten the Christian’s spiritual life and hope. We must not make excuses while we absorb such filth; we must do whatever we can to get away from it or stop it. Uncomfortable situations may result, but this is nothing compared to how nauseating it should be to hear and use corrupt language.
We as Christians must take action. We may have to walk away from a conversation, or ask someone to stop swearing while we are present. Though this usually makes people angry with us, it will bring to their attention the vain talk they mindlessly utter out of habit. Don’t be embarrassed to be an influence for decency. Those who use the filthy language should feel the embarrassment. Television shows need to be turned off, and movies avoided or walked out of. Someone always retorts, “Well, that’s the real world; get used to it!” Yes, and that’s the real problem. We are getting too used to it. I learned recently that there is a device available for the TV that will filter out bad language. Check it out — it would be an excellent investment, both financially and morally.
Children need to be taught early about the bad language that they will hear from their friends and schoolmates who mimic the filthy words of their parents. We need to be prepared not only to insist that they not use such language, but to tell them why! Explain to them why we do not use God’s precious name in vain, or speak filthy and vulgar words. Explain why we should be angry and offended at such talk every time we hear it. It would do us well to teach our children early to avoid popular euphemisms (gee, golly, darn, etc.) that are just watered-down versions of vain and offensive language. Training the tongue is vital (Jas. 3:1-10).
When warning about the danger of filthy speech, we must also emphasize, as Paul did, the need for edifying and grace-imparting speech (Eph. 4:29; Col. 4:6). Parents must realize that their children will repeat the type of speech they hear in the home. Let them hear godly talk and language that is decent and understandable. Let us be careful to speak properly to people of the world who will judge our religious claims by our words. May they see an example of someone who walks and talks as a Christian. May we be careful to speak properly to one another as brethren, whether in edification of truth, or in the rebuke of false teaching. There is no excuse for ugly and filthy talk among brethren. Such is of the world, which is passing away. Let us say what we mean, and mean what we say, all the while using words that are pure, proper, decent, and godly.
(The filter device for the television mentioned in this article can be found at the following website: www. tvguardian.com)