You can’t go anywhere these days and not hear vulgar language. You hear it at work, you hear it while shopping and you hear it even in your own homes via TV, radio, and the internet. One of the characteristics of our ungodly age is its corrupt speech and you can hardly escape it. At best we can be like Lot who vexed his righteous soul from day to day from the unlawful deeds. Whenever someone calls me or comes into my home and uses such language I will tell them that I don’t allow such language around me. Needless to say, I have lost a few friends by telling people to ‘hold their tongue’. The psalmist said, “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile” (Psa. 34:14). Again he wrote, “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me” (Psa. 39:1).
Don’t you just hate to hear someone engage God’s name just for the sport of it. They are not calling upon the name of the Lord but are using his name like a slang word. One of the Ten Commandments was this: “You shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7). Men show disrespect for the Lord’s holy name when they use it in a profane manner. They use His name to curse men. They use it as a form of exclamatory speech. They use it to express their anger. They use it in a light manner. We need to remember that “Holy and Reverend is his name” (Psa. 111:9). God will not hold men guiltless use their tongue in this way.
Paul wrote, “Let no corrupt communications proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). As Paul continued to describe sinful forms of speech, he condemned “filthiness,” “foolish talking,” and “jesting.”
At one time or another most of us have been forced to be around someone who has the kind of speech described by Paul. In the course of a conversation, they will twist someone’s words around to make something filthy or dirty out of what was intended to have no such reference or meaning in the beginning. With them, every innocent phrase can be made into something dirty. The humorous stories which they tell for entertainment and amusement generally are filthy. Their jokes are vulgar and dirty. Their jokes are shameful and obscene speech.
Paul also mentioned that some things were so shameful that Christians should not talk about them. He said, “For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret” (Eph. 5:12). Our society does not consider anything too shameful to speak about. The television talk shows use topics related to the most intimate relationships between a man and woman as entertaining conversation to be aired into millions of homes. Homosexuals, lesbians, prostitutes, and other sexual perversion are invited into our homes each and every single day. By now, most everyone has heard it, seen it, and often drawn into it. We are all creatures of habit and what we see and hear on a regular basic can soon be a part of our normal speech. This is why we should all heed to the warning or swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath (Jam 1:19). If there was ever a nation who had lost the ability to blush, America would have to be it. We are like Israel, whom Jeremiah described saying, “. . . they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush” (6:15). And just like Israel, they refuse to change and go back to the old paths, and the right ways (6:16).
Man frequently vents his anger through his speech. Paul described this kind of sinful speech as follows, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph. 4:31). Most of us have seen men of uncontrolled spirits whose anger burned like wild fire in sage brush, burning furiously and hotly, and then quickly subsiding. In such fists of rage many a crime has been committed and forever regretted.
Sometimes men persuade themselves that their anger is uncontrollable. They say, “When I get mad, I just can’t stop shouting.” They know better than that; this is simply an excuse to prevent taking responsibility for the abusive speech which they use on others. Such people can be in the middle of ranting and raving speech directed toward others – in the middle of the kind of anger which they say that they cannot control – when the phone rings or someone knocks on the door. What happens to this uncontrollable rage then? Christians who are guilty of abusive speech of this nature need to repent of their sin. They need to realize that such sins separate men from God and cause them to go to Hell. They need to manifest, not simply sorrow for their sin and the pain which it has inflicted on others, but godly sorrow which works repentance (2 Cor. 7:10).
In 1 Timothy 5:13, Paul condemned another sin of the tongue. In advising the younger widows to marry, Paul commanded the church not to enroll them on their permanent roll for support lest these women become idle and guilty of sinful speech. He wrote, “But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (1 Tim. 5:11-13). Being tattlers and busybodies is not a sin on which women hold franchises but also applies to men as well.
Conclusion: The kind of speech which should characterize Christians is that which is with grace; it is edifying, giving grace to those who hear it. The tongue can be used to offer praise to God in song and in prayer. It can be used to proclaim the story of the gospel of God’s grace. With a soft word, it can turn away wrath (Prov. 15:1). A good word can make those with a heavy heart glad (Prov. 12:25).
Why would one who is professing to be a Christian and who participates in the public service of God’s worship want to use his tongue for sinful purposes, such as taking the name of the Lord in vain, coarse jesting, clamor, gossip and backbiting? We need to join with David of old in obeying the command to “keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile” (Psa. 34:14). “I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me” (Psa. 39:1).
We might not be able to tame our tongue, for it is an unruly evil and full of deadly poison (Jam 3:8), but we sure can keep our tongue busy praying, preaching, teaching, studying, and singing hymns. As the old adage goes, “Idle hands are the devils workshop”. Thus, even the opposite is true, “Busy hands are God’s workshop”. Get your tongue busy doing the works of God, and your tongue won’t have the time to be unruly!