The psalmist said, “Keep your tongue from evil, and your 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). Let’s face it, we live in an age that think lying is a talent, cursing, swearing, and vulgarity is a right and privilege. It used to be people would do such things in the privacy of their own homes but today people will insult others with impunity all in the name of “not being politically correct”.
One of the many sins which is practiced today with the tongue is taking the Lord’s name in vain. One of the Ten Commandments was this: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your 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 and slander others. They use it as a form of exclamatory speech. They use it to express their anger. They use it in a light manner as though it is a big joke. They use to to exalt themselves while demeaning others. We need to remember that “holy and reverend is His name” (Psa. 111:9). God will not hold men guiltless who so abuse His name today.
Paul wrote, “Let no corrupt (rank, foul, rotten, worthless, disgusting) 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). It reminds us of the rotting which occurs in spoiled food, that some men’s mouths are like garbage cans.
As Paul continued to describe sinful forms of speech, he condemned “filthiness,” “foolish talking,” and “jesting.” The different kinds of filthy speech condemned here are as follows: (1) Filthiness: shameful, filthy or obscene speech; (2) Foolish talking: this is the talk of fools, men who have no respect for God (Psa. 10:7 – “his mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity”); (3) Jesting: coarse jesting. This implies the willingness to turn foul gestures into humor in order to be able to wiggle out of any situation without repercussion.
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. Homosexuals, prostitutes, and other sexual perverts are invited to be present on the program and talk in intimate detail regarding their sexual conduct. 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” (Jer 6:15).
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). One of the kinds of anger which Paul described is a violent form of anger which explodes and then subsides, forgetting what harm it has inflicted on others in its expression. 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 their anger they were guilty of clamor, shouting.
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). Oh, by the way, being tattlers and busybodies is not a sin on which women hold franchises.
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 anger (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). It is a lesson all Christians need to be reminded of each and every day we are exposed to a filthy and perverse world.