Comedian George Carlin raised quite a stink, and subsequently built a career out of his famous routine “Seven Dirty Words” where he expounded upon the origins and relative merits of the seven words that the broadcast media of the time deemed unsuitable. (Younger audiences may better know Carlin as the voice of Fillmore in the PIXAR film Cars.)
While I don’t wish to get into the debate surrounding the relative merits of said words, as there are as many opinions as there are words in the entire dictionary regarding their appropriateness and usefulness, I do think a little lively discussion, and perhaps reflection as well, is needed on how a Christian is to conduct himself verbally.
In the epistle of James, the author has this to say about human speech:
“The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:5-8, NIV)
So it’s clear that our words carry power. Great destructive power.
I’ve noticed my Christian brothers and sisters who balk at words on Carlin’s list will turn around and say hurtful and dangerous and crushing things to each other. And we’re all guilty. Whether in fits of anger, or for the sake of cheap humor, or in order to artificially inflate our own self-worth, we say things every day that are completely unbefitting of people who claim to love each other as Christ loves us. The author continues:
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10, NIV)
So many believers will stand and sing a chorus like John Mark McMillan’s “he loves us, oh how he loves us…” without thinking of the implications. One cannot pronounce blessings on God and turn around and pronounce evil on our brothers and sisters. Indeed, the epistle of 1 John claims “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.” Strong words. In fact, Jesus even said that anyone who insulted his brother was in grave danger of hellfire (Mt. 5:22).
So in the spirit (but not letter) of Carlin’s rant about dirty words, what do you think are some words (“curse” words excluded, please that should not be used by Christians today? What are some words that we use and should still use, but with much more care than we currently do?
Be sure to visit back tomorrow for my list of “dirty words” for a 21st-century Christ follower. Looking forward to reading yours!