Takin' Out the Trash Talk

Yes, even Christians sometimes struggle with saying the wrong things. So what can we do about it?
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The guy must've thought he owned the highway.

He came screaming by in his fancy Porsche, and then cut right in front of me, practically running me off the road.

Boy, did I have some choice words for him. And they weren't very nice at all.

Then I started thinking: You call yourself a Christian, and you said THAT?!?

OK, I admit it. Every now and then, I'm guilty of using words I shouldn't use. Or saying things about people I shouldn't be saying—better known as gossip.

But God says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth" (Ephesians 4:29).

Cleaning up our language—be it cussing, gossip or lying—may be the toughest challenge of living our faith. God knew we'd have a hard time with this; the Bible says no one can "tame the tongue" (James 3:8).

Still, God wants us to try. Listen to this: "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless" (James 1:26).

Strong words.

So, how do we "tame the tongue"? First, we need to look at some of the ways it gets out of control. And then we'll look at some things we can do about it.

Cussing

Actually, "cussing" is a slang term that includes several types of inappropriate language—cursing, profanities and obscenities.

A "curse," according to my dictionary, is "an appeal … for evil or misfortune to befall someone." Here's what the Bible says: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse" (Romans 12:14). That's a tall order; when someone hurts us, we want to hurt back. But God obviously says that's wrong.

"Profanity" is language showing disrespect for something sacred, such as the name of God. This breaks God's heart in a big way. That's why it's one of the Ten Commandments: "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God" (Exodus 20:7).

"Obscenities" include all other forms of foul language, often sexual in nature. Dirty jokes fall into this category. Again, the Bible's clear: "Nor should there be any obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place" (Ephesians 5:4). Also: "Rid yourself of … filthy language" (Colossians 3:8).

It's obvious that "cussing" is out of line for Christians. Fortunately, God gives us alternatives. Throughout the Bible, when we're commanded not to do something wrong, we're also told something we should be doing right.

For instance, Ephesians 4:29 tells us to avoid "any unwholesome talk." But the verse goes on to say that our speech should be "helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

So, it's a two-step process, but both steps should be taken at the same time. Not only are we to quit using bad language, but we're to replace it with language that will "benefit those who listen." Use words that are pure, kind and encouraging.

Gossip

We all know what gossip is, right? It happens when we say cruddy stuff about people. We tell a secret. Spread a half-truth. Tell a whole truth that no one really needs to know.

Yes, even if the news is true, it can still be gossip: "Did you hear Amanda's pregnant?" That may be true. But if you're just spreading the news because it makes for good talk, that's gossip.

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