Return to Study of the Tongue
Sunday, June 19, 2006 am
A STUDY OF THE TONGUE 8
Sins of Profanity
Today, we continue our study of the tongue, noting various sins that we might find ourselves guilty of. Today we notice another category – one that is often a result of a lack of self-control – sins of profanity.
We live in a society that over the years has become more and more vulgar with its language. Everywhere we turn, we find those who use profane language. It is found in the schools, even at the elementary level, at the workplace, when out and about shopping, and virtually everywhere people are found together. For some, it is so common that hardly a sentence is uttered without some profanity in it. When we turn on the television, the radio or watch movies, it is far too common. In some industries it seems to be the expected norm (such as sports, the military, etc.). It is truly a sad thing, because most who use such language don’t realize how it contributes to the moral decline of society as a whole. And it is something that if we associate with it too much, it will ‘rub off’ on us. As Christians, we must remind ourselves that such language is ungodly and very offensive both to God and mankind.
I. What is Profanity?
refers to either one who is profane or profane language itself.
The word profane has several meanings in the English language that have bearing on our religion. According to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, it means
i. As a verb, “to treat with abuse, irreverence, contempt”
ii. “to debase by a wrong, unworthy or vulgar use”
iii. As an adjective, “1. not concerned with religion or religious purposes, SECULAR”
iv. 2. Not holy because unconsecrated, impure or defiled, UNSANCTIFIED”
v. 3a. Serving to debase or defile what is holy; IRREVERENT. b. OBSCENE, VULGAR.”
b. Profanity in God’s word
i. In the Old Testament the primarily used word means, “to defile, to pollute, to desecrate, …” (BDB), WS Dictionary of the OT notes that its most frequent meaning is, “to pierce or wound”. Louw & Nida’s notes (TWOT - #661) the root word marks “the act of doing violence to the established law of God [Zeph. 3:4], breaking the covenant [Psa. 55:21], or divine statutes [Psa. 89:31]…Thus to profane is to misuse the name of God, the Sabbath, or the holy place and so desecrate it.”
In the NT, Vine’s Dictionary of the NT notes that the
verb word means primarily, “to cross the threshold.” The idea of this word is
to trespass prescribed boundaries. In this case, boundaries that God has set
and that are sacred. It describes one who has taken that which is common (as
opposed to holy) and encroached into the area of that which is sacred OR taken
what is holy and made it common.
Other words associated with profanity would include: defile, taint, contaminate, sacrilege (W.S. Dictionary of N.T.). In addition to this, it is related to that which is common vs. that which is holy.
We take words, many of which have holy meanings and abuse them flippantly in common realms.
There were many things they were warned to not profane
in God’s word.
The Sabbath – Exodus 31:14 – it carried the death penalty, Neh. 13:17
The name of God – Leviticus 18:21 – associated with idolatry
The dwelling place of God – Psalm 74:7
Stealing – Proverbs 30:7-9
The sanctuary – Zephaniah 3:4
The covenant God made with their fathers - Marriage - Malachi 2:11
Associated with the unholy – 1 Timothy 1:9
Hebrews 12:16 – Esau was considered profane (or unholy) as he was willing to so cheaply sell his birthright
c. God condemns profanity.
i. By its very definition, it alienates one from Him.
ii. In some of the above instances, it carried the death penalty.
iii. 2 Timothy 2:16 – our language, “But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.”
d. When we speak of sins of profanity with the tongue, we are noting those who show irreverence against both God and man. With their tongues they are willing to defile that which is sacred and decent with offensive and crude, often ignorant language.
II. Sins of Profanity
a. Using God’s name in vain –
i. How often today do we hear the name of God and Jesus invoked with little thought as to whom they are speaking of. Often the use of their Names is associated with cursing men and even God Himself. Other times, their Names are used flippantly, such as the one who is always saying, “O my God” or “Jesus Christ!” or “Good Lord”, etc.
ii. Exodus 20:7 – the 3rd commandment. The warning is made, that those who do will NOT be found guiltless before Him. One thing the Jews understood was the importance of the name of God. They took precautions to make sure it was not written or said improperly. His name was held with the utmost of reverence.
iii. Leviticus 24:11-16 records the stoning of a woman’s son. His sin consisted of blaspheming the name of the Lord and cursing.
WE are to hold His name in reverence – 1 Timothy 6:1
notes that “the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.” While
speaking to the proper conduct of servants toward their masters, the point is
made that such a result ought to be avoided.
Also Romans 2:24 where conduct resulted in the name of God being blasphemed.
b. Cursing (cussing) –
i. We sometimes use this term to refer to one who uses what we would call foul language. But I want you to consider the deeper meaning of the term for a moment.
The term curse actually means to pronounce evil
to befall someone. Many of the words we consider profane and vulgar are
actually curse words. One is calling upon God to damn a soul to
hell, or misery to follow them in life.
They are often words uttered in heated anger, that if one really knew what he was saying, he would NEVER speak that way.
iii. When Peter denied the Lord the 3rd time, we are told that he swore and cursed. Matthew 26:74
iv. James 3:10 – from the same mouth proceed blessings and cursing,…these things ought not be so!
v. Romans 12:14 – “bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them.”
vi. 1 Peter 3:9, in the way we treat our brethren, we are not to be, “returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, blessing…”
c. Coarse jesting, filthy communication –
i. Another profane use of the tongue. Rather than speaking that which is pleasant and suitable, we speak with raw and harsh, unacceptable language. This would include off-color and suggestive jokes with filthy implications. What is sad about our society, as that most have no idea what is really clean and what is not. The comedy circuit of our society is filled with those who violate God’s standard concerning proper language. Even many of those we would consider “clean” fill their shows with suggestive and ungodly concepts.
Ephesians 4:29 – simply states that we should not let
ANY corrupt communication proceed out of our mouths. Later in that letter, he
elaborates in more detail. Ephesians 5:3-4 says, “But fornication and all
uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even 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.” In this verse there are at
least 3 terms to give consideration to here:
Filthiness – a word that means indecent. The WS Dictionary says of this word, “that which when exposed by the light makes the person ashamed of himself.” Ask yourself, “Would I say this if Jesus was standing here?”
Foolish talking – talk that makes one look foolish. NOTE: Does this say that we can never joke around? I do not believe so. First the word foolish is used. This would be one acting without understanding. He speaks inappropriately either because of the time or the situation. Or his words are not weighed and he says something silly that he immediately realizes it was wrong. He looks foolish. In other words, there is a time for everything – cf. Ecclesiastes 3:4, “a time to laugh…”
But there are times when we need to cut out the silly, joking.
Coarse jesting – the word coarse is not found in the KJV, ASV, Darby, etc. The word jesting, in its basest form could refer to one who is simply witty with his words. But most scholars agree that its use here dealt with such language that has deteriorated to unacceptable conversation – i.e. hurtful insults, suggestive jokes, a scoffer, etc. Thayer refers to it as “low jesting.”
The text also ads to this word the phrase, “which are fitting” – meaning that we need STANDARDS in our conversations (and jokes).
iii. Colossians 3:8-9 – all calls upon us to put away filthy language from our mouths.
i. Sometimes, we use the word as another word for cursing. But again, consider the deeper meaning which is the intended meaning in texts we have mentioned (cf. Mark 14:71)
The word, “swear” literally means “to take or make an
oath.” (WS Dictionary)
In the New Testament there are warnings against flippantly taking oaths. In fact, James 5:12 says, “Do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no,’ ‘no’ lest you fall into judgment.” According to Matthew 23:16-22 and other passages, oaths were abused by Jewish leaders and others who used them deceitfully.
When you swear deceitfully (you don’t really mean it)
or lightly, it becomes profanity as you are declaring an oath in the presence of
God. It is that which prompted Jesus to simply state, “do not swear at all… let
your yes be yes…” Matthew 5:33-37.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I swear it is true” or “I swear on my mother’s grave”? Is such profanity?
Consider the warning of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 5:1-6 where he spoke of vows, which is an oath.
iv. NOTE: This is NOT the same thing as an oath in a court of law.
e. Euphemisms –
i. The word is defined by Webster’s Collegiate as, “the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.” More simply stated, A euphemism is a substitute for a curse word or irreverently using God’s name.
ii. The Bible does not mention euphemisms per se. But some of the principles we have discussed in this lesson should help us weigh their use in our lives. If it is wrong to improperly and cheaply use God’s name, then it is just as wrong to use a substitute for that name. If a word invokes a curse or anything profane, a substitute for that word that implies the same meaning would be just as wrong. I think of listening to the radio and you hear the “bleep” following an adjective which obviously tells you what word profanity word uttered.
Christians ought to work on eliminating such words
from their vocabulary, because at best, it shows a lack of total self-control
with the tongue. Like everything else in our lives, we should not see how close
we can get to the line of sin without crossing it. Our goal should be to stay
as far away from that line as possible.
Also Ephesians 5:3-4 speaks of speech that “is not fitting” which could apply to euphemisms.
HOWEVER, before we are too quick to judge another –
consider this: uttering profanities is an addictive habit that still plagues
many recent converts to Christianity. They have used the gutter language all
their lives and you can’t turn it off like a light switch, though they would to
be able to do so. Consider this one who is working at correcting his ungodly
behaviors, including his language. He might catch himself in the
midst of uttering profanities. But rather than say the profanity, he quickly
substitutes the actual profanity for a word that is senseless. For example,
instead of saying God, he catches himself at and completes the word with an
interjection (not a real intelligible word) “gosh.” Thus in
reality, using that expression, is his attempt to be more pleasing to God.
Please do not misunderstand! I am NOT saying that we ought to use such language regularly or that it ought to be in our vocabulary. Ultimately, in time, the above individual should realize the implication of using such words and mature to the point where his tongue is not uttering ANYTHING of this nature that would be questionable. If he is really interested in pleasing God in all things, his goal is to eliminate even these euphemisms as quickly as possible.
I am simply making this point lest we jump to conclusions and rashly judge one’s intentions.
v. BTW, there are many who have never used the “hard language” but instead have made euphemisms a habit in their speech. If that be the case, YOU NEED TO QUIT!
vi. Also interjections are not wrong within themselves (which is where many of these silly words fit in). Just find something that cannot be misunderstood as substitute profanities. For example: “Wow!” “Awesome!” “Cool!”
III. Dealing with Profanity
Realize what you are actually saying and doing.
James 1:19, AGAIN, fits in here. BE quick to hear, slow to speak…”
Do you really want to be guilty of cursing God or another? Do you really want to be known for having a vulgar tongue?
b. If you are guilty, REPENT. If you stumble (and you will) get up and keep going, striving to do better as each day goes by.
c. What are you listening to? It is worthy of note here to understand that the reason our society is so profane is because of the media. You should not listen to entertainment filled with profanity, any more than you should not watch movies with nudity, immorality and excessive violence. You CANNOT take fire into your bosom and not be burned. (Prov. 6:27)
d. Learn self-control – just remind yourself of James 3:2. Also James 1:26 which says that if we do not bride our tongue, our religion is vain.
Again, we have noted another area where we need to weigh the way we speak. I appreciate your attention in this study and it is my hope that these things will help to be drawn closer to God in our lives.