“Crooked speech” is a biblical term found in Proverbs 6:12 and amplified in many ways throughout the Scriptures.
The phrase denotes any deviation in language which is displeasing to God. Included are the “careless” or “useless” words of Matthew 12:36; the blasphemous words against God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the impious use of his Name because of which no man shall be found guiltless; the false witnessing of the Ninth Commandment: the lying words of those perverters of truth who have no part in heaven.
Crooked speech is a serious offense against God and so widespread in the world that we all stand guilty before the One from whom nothing can be hid.
That profanity is so commonly heard is no reason for anyone to take it as an acceptable manner of speech. It should be opposed by vigorous protest as a sin against God and an affront to man.
It is not strange that for the unregenerate “devil,” “damn,” and “hell” are often a part of their language. They are speaking of their own master, their own condition, and their ultimate destination.
How often is profanity nothing more than the blustering of a bully. It shows to others the limitation of one’s vocabulary. It is conversation’s cesspool and an offense to those who are forced to hear it. Profanity is the crutch of conversational cripples and places those who use it in a category more offensive than those who are physically unclean or afflicted by a loathsome disease.
That profanity is used by so many who are unregenerate is to be expected. That some Christians indulge in it is a reflection on their spiritual judgment.
We live in a time when profanity is so universal that it arouses little comment and even less resentment. That this is, in part, an aftermath of two world wars is no excuse. That many women are also guilty in no way lessens its offensiveness or seriousness. In fact children now hear these “crooked words” from many sources, including their own homes. No wonder that profane language is commonplace!
Blasphemy is the intrusion of profanity into the realm of sacrilege. It is speaking against that which is holy; being critical of that which no human should; attributing to Satan the works of the Holy Spirit; setting up one’s self as a judge against God.
Blasphemy is taking God’s name in vain. It is assuming prerogatives which belong to him alone. It is cursing where man himself stands in judgment. It is usually a direct attack on God and can place the blasphemer in direct jeopardy.
Nowhere are “crooked words” heard more frequently than in the realm of gossip.
Gossip is usually a lie passed on surreptitiously either for the dubious pleasure of creating a sensation, or for the more overt intention of injuring the one who is subject to it.
Gossip is so common that those who do not indulge in it are rare. There is some strange fascination about passing on a juicy bit of scandal. How we love to take the mistake of an acquaintance and magnify and twist it so that we may have a fascinating conversation piece! And, how rarely does the gossip reflect the truth!
It is our observation that nowhere is gossip found to be more of a prevailing sin than in some Christian circles.
By it reputations are ruined, motives judged, friends separated, and Christian witness neutralized.
Hand in hand with gossip is the critical spirit. Because someone does not act or react as we think they should we begin to criticize, and the step from this to gossip is so short and the end results so similar that Satan must chortle when he sees Christians fall into his trap.
Why should a Christian adopt for himself a standard of conduct with certain prohibitions (often unrelated to biblical truth) and then set himself up as a judge of those who live in a Christian freedom which their own consciences justify before God? There are good people who teach as doctrines things which are actually the commandments of men and they then become both judge and jury against those who are equally led in other ways by the Holy Spirit. This is not right and it very decidedly injures the witness of the Christian.
The first cousin of criticism is “backbiting,” a favorite game of those who forget that Christian love of the brethren is a definite command of the Lord.
How many ministers have had their usefulness in a certain congregation destroyed by the critical tongues of their parishioners!
How many Christians have suffered at the hands of fellow Christians who have undertaken to judge their actions without knowing the circumstances by which those actions were determined, or the Spirit-directed motivation behind that which they do!
The executive editor of one of our city papers, a friend of the writer, found his paper caught in the crossfire of two warring factions in the churches of his community. One day he asked the writer: “Why do Christians act like this. Dr.… seems to spend his time attacking Christian men doing far more in the kingdom of God than he has ever been able to accomplish.”
Little wonder that the apostle Paul, writing to the Galatian Christians, said: “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.”
The word “lie” is an ugly one. It has caused much violence and even hearing it used makes the righteous cringe.
But lying is widespread. It may be the calculated and premeditated perversion of the truth. Or it may be the implication of something we know to be the opposite of that implied.
The Bible tells us that lying lips are an abomination to the Lord and a canvass of the word in its Bible usage shows how seriously lying is regarded and how much under the judgment of God the liar stands.
Listed in the “seven things which God hates” are found, “a lying tongue,” “a false witness,” and “a man who sows discord among brothers.” Any consideration of the subject of “crooked words” brings us face to face with our own sinfulness in this matter.
It is to be expected that such misuse of speech will be found in the unregenerate world. At the moment our problem has to do with Christians. In this area we are woefully at fault and it requires that we confess the sins of our lips and like Isaiah of old ask that they be touched by a coal from the altar of God’s holiness that they may in turn be pleasing to Him.
L. NELSON BELL
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