Thy Speech Maketh Thee Known

By David M. Bonner

When I was living in a dormitory during my college years, several of my neighbors learned an important lesson about their vocabularies. These young men had been living away from the moral guidance of their parents and had acquired the use of a number of “four letter” words. The use of these words had become so habitual, several individuals became totally unaware they were using expletives. When the university had a “parents weekend” they invited their parents to see the dorm. When these young men unknowingly greeted their parents with some of the most vulgar profanity, their mothers were in a state of shock.

God has never wanted his people to use his name in a vain, empty, or idle way (Exod. 20:7; Matt.12:34-37). The Scriptures admonish us to, “Let your speech be al-ways with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one” (Col.4:6). In 2 Timothy 1:13, Timothy was told to “hold the pattern of sound words.” In Matthew 26:73-74 when Peter was told, “for thy speech maketh thee known,” he changed his speech and began “to curse and to swear” in order to convince them he was not a disciple of Christ. That kind of language is still an indicator of one’s spiritual weakness.

The third chapter of James gives a beautiful lesson on using our tongues properly. “For in many things we all stumble. If any stumbleth not in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also” (James 3:2). And in verses 8-11 it says, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison. There-with bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God: out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet water and bitter?” These passages admonish us to be judicious in our speech and warn us that our speech is not only an indicator of our spirituality, but also a measure by which others can judge our spirituality.

Fellow Christians, what does your speech say about you? Does it indicate your mind dwells on spiritual things and that your tongue is trained to speak spiritually, or does it indicate worldliness?

I have seldom seen Christians using profanity to the magnitude that my college dorm mates were engaging in, but I have noticed Christians using euphemisms or slang words. Euphemisms are the substitution of an “agreeable” or “inoffensive” word or expression for one that is harsh, indelicate, or otherwise offensive. In other words, these words have the same meaning, but are less offensive to the listener. For an example, when one dies we usually soften our conversation with the bereaved by referring to the de-ceased as having “passed away.” The meaning is the same, but the message is more acceptable. When one uses euphemisms for curse words or other expletives it should be realized that profanity is still being used, it is just “more socially acceptable profanity.”

Some examples of Euphemisms include:

1. Darn or Durn  (euphemism) Damn

2. Dang  (euphemism) Damn

3. Doggone  (euphemism) God damn

4. Gosh, Gash, Garsh  (euphemism) God

5. Gee, Jee  (euphemism) Jesus

6. Golly  (euphemism) God

7. Heck  (euphemism) Hell

The definitions to these words can be found in Webster’s dictionary. The above list is not comprehensive. These words and many other slang words should be eliminated from every Christian’s vocabulary so we do not practice “socially acceptable” vulgarity.

I know that many have used these words in ignorance. Twenty years ago I gave a lesson on this topic. Afterwards, two of the young ladies in the congregation approached me and said, “brother Bonner that was a good lesson, but do you know you too use an euphemism? You use the word `shoot.’ At the time I could not understand how shoot, as in shooting a rifle, could be an euphemism of vulgarity. That evening when I looked it up in the dictionary it said shoot was an euphemism for “sh _ .” You can imagine my embarrassment. I quit using the word immediately, but I still wondered if really any one ever used the word that way or even knew that it was an euphemism for a very vulgar word. Only two days later I heard a woman at school say “oh sh _ .” When I asked her not to talk that way she said, “OK, oh shoot.” Since then I have seen this euphemism used this way numerous times. My point is that it is possible for us to be naive about the words of the world. Once we have learned better we need to speak better.

There are two approaches we can take on this subject. One is to become defensive and refuse to listen. For an ex-ample, I was once told “darn” just means to darn your socks. The other choice we can make is to be open minded enough to realize that, even though words may have double usages or multiple meanings, when people say “oh darn” they are not darning their socks and when they say “oh gee” they are not prodding a team of mules. They are using these words in exclamation. These expletive euphemisms are just “watered down” words which really mean something more harsh.

Matthew 12:36 says we are going to give account for every “idle word” we speak. Doesn’t this plainly say Christians have no business using expletives, euphemisms, vulgarity, or any other form of “meaningless filler words” that do not add to the sense of our conversation? Certainly it does!

When one realizes he should not use these words, what should be done? My college dorm mates were determined to never embarrass themselves again. They initiated a pro-gram to help educate each other by charging fines to anyone in their group that slipped and used any word that is taboo. They quickly cleaned up their language. A local congregation should act as a family, as a group of friends. I am not advocating monetary fines, but if you have brethren who are uninformed about these words, why not make a copy of this article and discuss it with them? I have seen several groups of Christians agree to have other brethren kindly bring to their attention any slip in the use of these words. Long time habits are hard to break, but with the help of friends, it can be done much more quickly and easily. This is what Christianity is all about, helping each other live better spiritually.

Guardian of Truth XL: No. 17, p. 8-9
September 5, 1996