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To Swear or Not? Why our language matters:


How many times have we been surprised when a brother or sister drops the “f” bomb? Or when certain language is used, people are turned off? Before you think that this post is going to condemn you of all of your speech, stay with me here.

What if I told you that we as Christians are missing the point entirely when it comes to what we should or should not say?

Let’s look into Scripture.

Ephesians 4:29 "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."

The word used here for the word “corrupt” is the Greek word σαπρὸς- sapros. It refers to the animal or vegetable substance that has become rotten. The definition is rotten, putrid, and unfit for use. So, what is this text saying?

How do we define “rotten” speech?

What about the word for “good?” The Greek word ἀγαθὸς – agathos means intrinsically good, good in nature, good whether it is seen to be good or not.

Let’s insert the definition of “corrupting” and “good” in place of the word and read this aloud.

Let no “rotten, putrid, or useless” talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is “intrinsically good” for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Okay, let’s put this in perspective for our everyday application.

I don’t know of any four-letter word that will keep people from the gospel of Jesus. I do know what will. Judgement, condemnation, and harshness will every time. What do I mean by this? Well, while I don’t believe it is wise to swear up and down the street with open vulgarity, I believe some things that we as believers say are much more harmful than the occasional expletive. For example, “I don’t want her in our Bible study group. She is trashy.” Or what about “She is a terrible parent and I don’t want her children around mine?” This is useless speech.

I believe that this Scripture is referring to speech that is flowing from the corruption of our own heart, speech that has the intent to harm or cause sin in the person who hears. Gossip is a perfect example of what this text is rebuking in us. When we open up a conversation with intent to gossip, we invite our sisters into our own sin.

Have you ever heard a believer gossip and thought that she had a healthy walk with Jesus?

Let’s take the focus off of the occasional swear word and focus on the language that condemns or wounds (use of manmade slang may not even be present).

Father God,

I pray that we will be a people after your heart and join in by committing to the mission of Christ. We seek to be a people that draws others in and not to drive them away with our words or harsh opinions. Refresh our minds and renew our hearts as we seek you, encourage others to join us, and find fullness in your presence. Amen.


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