There are a lot of gifts from God that we utilize each and every day, but none more than our words. I am using my words right now to write this blog. I use my words to talk to my co-workers. I use my words to talk to God. In fact, according to an article in the Daily Mail, the average person will speak up to 20,000 words per day. That’s 140,000 words per week and 7.3 million words per year. So yes, words matter, and that Bible would agree. Solomon writes in Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” So, how can we use the gift of language, words, and speaking to honor and glorify our God? In this blog, we will answer three important questions that help us understand profanity and using language to glorify the Lord.
What Does It Mean to Use Profanity?
The sin of profanity is not just the use of cuss words. We tend to believe that just because we don’t say the “bad” words, we don’t sin. This is an incorrect view of how God views profanity. Throughout the Bible, profanity is about irreverence for God, not just the use of cuss words. We are profane when we fail to revere God’s holiness, honor his commands, fear his justice, respect his image in others, or have gratitude for His creation. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:1-3, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and enjoy the truth.” Paul is making it a point that people who teach to abstain from good things (marriage, food, and the like) that God created actually profane things that God has made, and Paul goes even so far as to say that these people are instructed by demons. I once listened to a podcast that talked about a church that claimed eating Lucky Charms was sinful. That is exactly what Paul is talking about, and this type of legalism is actually profaning what God has intended for good. Paul goes on to write in verses 4-5, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” It isn’t holiness to abstain from eating Lucky Charms, but rather it’s irreverence for what God has called good and intended for pleasure and joy (Acts 14:17).
How Should We Treat Image-Bearers?
Driving sometimes can cause me to become intensely frustrated with other people. I do my best to love people well, but when someone pulls out in front of me when I’m driving, I lose control of my emotions. However, these short outbursts against another person have caused me to reflect on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:22, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca’, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool’, will be in danger of the fire of hell.” The hard truth from the mouth of our Lord is that calling someone stupid is murder and hell-deserving disregard for the dignity of others. Now, that’s convicting. Profanity isn’t just bad because the words themselves are bad, but rather because they demean good things. All human beings are made in the image and likeness of God our Creator and Lord (Genesis 1:26-27). To profane a person is to actually profane God. What needs to happen in our minds is a re-wiring of our understanding of profanity. It’s less about focusing on not using profanity and more about respecting what God has made good. So, whether you are driving to work or walking through the supermarket, it is vitally important in the Christian walk to put off the sin of profanity, and put on reverent respect for human beings made in the image of God.
How Do We Use Words for God’s Glory?
It can be a lot easier to understand a sin than it is to obey it. I can speak from experience. However, when it comes to profanity, we Christians have the incredible calling of using our tongues for God’s ultimate glory and honor. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Paul doesn’t just say that we should avoid using cuss words at all costs, but rather that our speech should only be helpful for building others up so that it may benefit those who listen. That is an incredible, yet difficult calling. So, how do we live in obedience to this teaching? The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1-5 actually saw God with his own eyes. “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ At the sound of their voices, the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. ‘Woe to me' I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” I find it interesting that Isaiah did not say “I am a man of unclean actions”, but rather said, “I am a man of unclean lips”. Why did Isaiah have a sudden recognition of his profane language? It was because he was in the presence of God and being in His presence brought forth the recognition that the words he had spoken about God, about His image bearers, and about His creation were profane and filthy. The immense holiness, beauty, love, and wonder of God gave Isaiah a sudden awareness of his profanity against God and what God has called good. So, if we are to use our language for God’s glory, it is essential that we live in God’s presence daily. Paul says in Romans 8:9, “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” Christian, you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. The presence of God is with you and empowering you. That is the key to using your words unto the glory of God.
As we walk the road that Jesus has paved for us, let us not forget the power of our words. Solomon writes in Proverbs 12:18, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Whether we are talking about God Himself, the people He created, or the creation He designed let us not profane it, but glorify it. Tim Shorey writes in an article for The Gospel Coalition, “We need to curse the profane—pronouncing harm and ruin over that which deserves to die: our irreverent minds, ungrateful hearts, and demeaning words. We need the sense of God that Isaiah had. We need a sense of his divine majesty and justice—and such a respect for his image in others—that it shapes how we talk to, and about, both him and them. This alone is fitting for those who bear the Sacred Name in a secular and profane world.”