Recently, I heard two national news items that centered on foul language. First, Vice President Biden used particularly vulgar language in a whispered aside to the president while microphones were recording. People everywhere quickly rushed to defend and justify his words. John Dickerson at slate.com stated that Biden’s language was entirely acceptable for the occasion. In fact, he asserted that vulgar language is sometimes the most appropriate way to express your thoughts. (One might hope that a professional writer would have a vocabulary extensive enough to avoid that.)
The second incident occurred at the recent NFL scouting combine. Apparently, Tim Tebow suggested that players bow in a word of prayer before taking the Wonderlic exam. To this, a player told him to shut up using the same vulgarity as the vice president. The room filled with the laughter of other players.
We could probably agree that this type of language is far more prevalent than in years gone by. Words that at one time would never have been broadcast now find their way onto even “family-friendly” television programs. Language that was once reserved for “sailors” can now be heard in the mouths of preteen girls. As foul words grow more accepted in society, it is important for believers to remember the biblical guidance we have about our language.
Deceitful, slanderous, hypocritical, vain, idle – God’s Word warns about the dangers of these types of speech. Gossip and lying are condemned as particularly damaging. In contrast, the words of Christ are described as gracious and full of life. The book of Proverbs is rich with instruction about how our language can produce blessings or bitter consequences. The New Testament offers counsel about controlling even the most difficult tongue (James 3). We must remember that God hears all the words, even the idle ones, that slip past our lips (Matthew 12:36). Why does Scripture devote so much attention to our words? They are powerful and important.
What will my words accomplish today? A whispered exclamation when surprised or upset. Personal conversations between two friends. Public statements of my opinions or judgments. Each of this expressions reveal what lies in my heart. We don’t have to stand behind a pulpit to share the words of eternal life with another person. They should be an integral part of our daily life. What comes out of my mouth originated in my heart.
The Psalmist reminds us that ultimately there is only one to whom we must give account. May David’s prayer be ours as well.
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14