The Insanity of Profanity

watch your languageLearning a new skill can be difficult, but it might be even harder to break a bad habit. Learning how to tame your tongue might be a new skill that also manages a bad habit.

James addressed untidy tongues when he said:  “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body (3:2).”

When James used “word” in the verse above, he chose “logos.” In classical Greek “logos” was more than just the spoken word; it also included the inner thought that gave birth to the spoken word.

We live in a time when too much of our language is mono-syllabic, four letters, and laced with profanity.  James said the tongue is “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”  He went on to say that it’s not logical to think that you can bless God in one breath and spit out a steamy tirade of cussing that belittles your fellow man in your next breath:

No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?  Can a fig tree, bear olives? Can a grapevine bear a fig? No, and no spring yields both salt water and fresh (3:8-12).”

The first 6 words in the verses above hold the key to taming the tongue.  You can’t do it by focusing on what you say.  You need to concentrate on the thought that precedes the talk.

If you fail to focus on the thought your talk will continue to conform to the profanity of the world.  It’s when you begin to manage the mental component  of communication that you can begin to experience a transformation of your tongue.

When you read this section of James, the insanity of profanity includes more than just cussing.  The discussion also centers on any communication that’s vulgar, uncouth, and unrefined, and it includes gossip and lies.

Since “logos” takes into consideration both the spoken word and the thought behind the word, you can change your talk by changing your thought.  Here are some tongue-taming thoughts for your consideration:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. . . and the God of peace will be with you. ~Philippians 4:8

The words that spring out of your mouth will be less salty and more pristine if the thoughts that precede them are noble, just, and pure.  Take some time today to meditate on these things.

Are You Fluent or Tongue-Tied?

640x360When Jesus was crucified, there was a message written in three languages that stated:  This is Jesus the King of the Jews. You may know these three languages were Hebrew, Greek, and Latin; but, do you know how many languages exist in the world today?

There are some 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, and the language most frequently spoken is Mandarin Chinese. Due to China’s large population it is estimated that 1,213,000,000 people speak this language.

There is a country much smaller than China and it lies just south of the equator, and 99 miles north of Australia. It is Papua New Guinea, and it is smaller than China in both land mass and population.  What’s interesting, however, is that with a population of just over 7 million, this country is incredibly diverse when it comes to languages.  The Linguistic Society reports that Papua New Guinea has 832 indigenous languages.

Even though there are thousands of languages spoken in the world today, there will be a day when everyone speaks the same thing.  There is coming a day when people will hear the name of Jesus and bow their knees to Him, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).

There’s no need to wait for some future day to confess the goodness of God.  In whatever language you choose, you can follow the example of the Psalms, and do it now:

  • Psalm 7:17: I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.
  • Psalm 9:2: I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
  • Psalm 30:4 Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.

Linguistics and Liars

spkwaveA Southern Gospel Revival is a band that I like.  Ben Hester sings and plays guitar for this group, and he gives a fine performance of the song In the Sweet By and By.

As I was listening to this song this morning, it reminded me of an incident at the Kansas State Fair.  I was watching a demonstration and closely listening to the fine-honed monologue of the salesman.  As he finished his demonstration, he displayed a toothy grin and waved to us saying:  “This is the end of our demonstration, so I want to say “bye-bye,” and I want to thank you for coming.  Bye now!”

His use of the word “bye” was a clever display of linguistics and the subtle use of a homophone.  On one level the crowd was thinking:  “Gee what a nice man to say good-bye like that.”  On another level, however, his message was, “I want to say buy-buy . . . buy my product now!”

I had a similar experience at the Home Show.  There was a booth touting the warm feeling of fleece and the benefits of wool, and they even had a little pen with a ewe and her lambs.  I smiled when I heard the salesman say:  “Every ewe here knows how important it is to keep her babies warm.”  The message he was sending was not focused on the “ewes” but the “yous” in the crowd—“You mothers want to keep your babies warm, so buy this fleece blanket.”

When Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, he warned them of linguistics and liars and of people who would use “smooth words and flattering speech to deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:18).”  This verse has also been rendered as “enticing words” and “pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.”

I don’t have anything to sell, and I’m sending only one message:  Bye for now, and take a minute or two to listen to In The Sweet By and By.