Bad language (stupid words, vulgar and frivolous witticisms, jokes, etc.)



Brothers, now I want to speak to you about the tongue, that is to say, about our speech.

The tongue is a little member of our body situated in our mouth. God said to Moses: “Who has made man’s mouth? …. Have not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11 – NKJV), therefore our mouth was made by God and since God “works out everything for his own ends” (Proverbs 16:4 - NIV) the man’s mouth is useful. We know that God made man’s mouth in order to enable him to speak, to eat and drink, and in fact we use our mouth to praise and to pray God, to deliver to other people our thoughts, our opinions, our feelings and above all the Word of God, and we use our mouth also to eat and to drink in order to nourish our body so that he may have the necessary strength to work and to move freely. Now, one day Jesus said: “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matthew 15:11 - NKJV), this means that there is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him because “there is nothing unclean of itself” (Romans 14:14 – NKJV), for “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5 – NKJV). However, whereas on the one hand it is true that what we eat cannot defile us because it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, on the other hand it is also true that we can defile ourselves by speaking corrupt words. At this point, it must be said that “those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart” (Matthew 15:18 – NKJV), therefore the things that a man says are nothing but the things which are in his heart. We can compare man’s heart to a store from which a man draws out continually what is into it. This is why we can know what kind of person is the one with whom we talk also by his speech, for his words reflect exactly the thoughts of his heart. For Jesus said: “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matthew 12:35). Have you ever wondered why a good man speaks in a way which is very different from the way a wicked man speaks? This happens because a good man has the wisdom of God in his heart and thus when he speaks he speaks with wisdom and righteousness, as it is written: “Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding and even among fools she lets herself be known” (Proverbs 14: 33 – the first part is from the NKJV and the second part from the NIV) and again: “The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom” (Proverbs 10:31 – NKJV); while a wicked person speaks evil things because his heart is full of wickedness.

What should we do then lest we sin with our mouth and defile ourselves through our words? We must keep our heart, as Wisdom says: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23 – NKJV). But if we give place to unbelief and wickedness, know that this will have harmful effects on our speech. I will give you some examples taken from the Scripture in order to explain to you this concept. In the Psalms it is written: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1), however, besides saying it in his heart the fool says it also with his mouth; why? Because out of the abundance of his heart his mouth speaks. Therefore, it is clear that out of an unbelieving heart come expressions of unbelief. Is not this what the example of the Israelites in the wilderness teaches us? Yes, that’s exactly what the example of the Israelites teaches us. Let us look closely at it. God called the Israelites “a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God” (Psalm 78:8 – NIV) and “a people whose hearts go astray” (Psalm 95:10 - NIV). Now, God is He who searches the minds and hearts and the witness He witnessed of the heart of those Israelites is true. Let’s look therefore at what those Israelites spoke, that we may understand that their speech reflected the stubbornness of their heart and the unbelief which was in their heart. When the twelve spies, who had been sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan, returned from spying out the land and came back to Moses and all the congregation of the children of Israel, since ten of them said to the congregation that although the land of Canaan was a good land they were not able to overcome it because the land was inhabited by the giants, the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron and said: “Because the LORD hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us” (Deuteronomy 1:27) and also: “Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt” (Numbers 14:4). So they did not believe in the Lord, who had said to them: “Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 1:21). And it was because of their unbelief that God swore to them that they would not enter the promised land, that in the wilderness they would be consumed and there they would die. But where did those words of unbelief come from? They came from their heart, which went astray and was an unbelieving heart.

Let’s see now what are the evil things which come from within and defile a man. Jesus said: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23). Therefore, Jesus called all these things ‘evil things’ and said that they defile those who speak them. That’s why the apostle Paul said to the Ephesians: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:3-4), for he knew what are the things that must not be named by the saints lest they defile themselves. I ask you: ‘If those things edified and imparted grace to the hearers, would have Paul commanded that they must not even be named among us?’ Not at all, because Paul never commanded the saints to abstain from things which were useful to the saints and because he wrote all things to the saints “for what is proper” (1 Corinthians 7:35 - NKJV) and for their own profit.

Why should we abstain from all these things? For these reasons: in order to please God and to be an example to the people of the world, who take pleasure in the things forbidden by God, for Jesus said that we are “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13 - NKJV), so that the name of God may be glorified in us. Now, salt seasons foods, but salt is not seasoned by foods. What do I mean by that? I mean that it is the people of the world who need to see in us an example, and not the contrary, because we are light while they are darkness. And so that they might see in us an example we need to use a sound, serious and blameless language, without foolish talk or coarse joking and any turbid word. In this way, that is, through our example, they will understand how they should speak. But if we conform ourselves to the violent, coarse and irreverent language used by the unbelievers, we will be of no use to them because they won’t be able to taste the salt since the salt has lost its flavor, as it is written: “But if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13 - NKJV). Therefore, I say it again in these terms, if we cast away the fear of God and the wisdom of God, we will become just as the tasteless salt which is good for nothing but to be thrown out. I ask you: ‘What good is, in the midst of this dark world, a believer who in the place of worship reads the Word of God and weeps and cries when he prays, but outside the place of worship, that is, at home and in the road or at work, he uses a language full of bad words and vulgarities and he speaks evil of his neighbor?’ He is good for nothing, don’t you think so?

James said: “Indeed we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body” (James 3:3 - NKJV), which means that it is sufficient to put bits in the mouths of these animals so fast and strong in order to turn them wherever we want them to go. Likewise, if with the help of God we put bits into our mouth we will manage to bridle our whole body and so we will not make threatening gestures, we will not lift our hands against our neighbor, we will not move our body in a way that is not fitting for the saints. Think about what I am going to say: when the buffoons (that is, the comic actors and the comedians) perform in public, they make threatening gestures, they make strange and ridiculous faces, they are dressed in an indecent and abominable way, and they move their body perversely, do you know why? Because they refuse to put bits into their mouth and thus their tongue leads them to act in that way. Think about the quarrels also: do you know what causes men to quarrel? The tongue, for it is written: “A fool’s lips enter into contention” (Proverbs 18:6- NKJV). And do you know what leads men to lift up their hand against one another? The tongue, for it is written that the mouth of the fool “calls for blows” (Proverbs 18:6 – NKJV). Wisdom says also that “a whisperer separates the best of friends” (Proverbs 16:28 – NKJV), which means that those who slander their neighbor manage with their tongue to separate him from his best friends. Do you realize how much evil power is in the perverse tongue? Therefore, let us watch, so that no corrupt word may proceed out of our mouth because corrupt words have only bad effects on ourselves and on others.

James said that “the tongue is a fire” (James 3:6 – NKJV) and what kindles this fire? The apostle says that the tongue “is set on fire by hell [Greek: geenna]” (James 3:6 – NKJV), that is, the everlasting fire; therefore let us not permit geenna to set on fire our tongue, so we will not kindle strife.

James calls the tongue “a world of iniquity” (James 3:6 – NKJV) because through it men say the most wicked and perverse things; the same apostle says that the tongue is “full of deadly poison” (James 3:8 – NKJV) to show us that death is in the power of the tongue.

How should our speech be then? We find the answer in the Scripture. Paul said to the Colossians: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one …. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 4:6; 3:16 – NKJV), and to the Ephesians: “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-20 – NKJV). If we keep these commandments, we will be able to distinguish ourselves from the people of the world. Why? Because we know that those who are outside speak to one another with jokes, stupid and offensive words, empty words spoken by their favourite comedians and singers, and by philosophers and famous writers, and they tell one another impure stories and all kinds of witty remarks. On the other hand, the word of God does not dwell in them, they don’t know the psalms, the hymns and the spiritual songs, and thus they speak to one another with the things they have in their heart.

However, those who know the truth must speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with the words of the Lord Jesus Christ and those of the apostles and the prophets, so that they may comfort, edify, teach, and admonish one another. Does this happen among the people of God? Yes, but it happens rarely, for almost all the believers speak to one another with impure stories, stupid words, vulgar and frivolous witticisms (witty remarks with a double meaning, one innocent and the other unchaste), and jokes.

As for jokes, they tell all kinds of jokes, such as jokes about the governing authorities appointed by God and sometimes even jokes about God, Jesus, the prophets and the apostles. And this form of speech in many cases passes unnoticed because it has become fashionable to use it. I can assure you, brothers, that this form of speech, which is present even in the sermons of some preachers, does not impart any grace to the hearers; it makes people laugh and sneer, but it does not edify the hearers. But on the other hand most believers want preachers to speak with jokes and not seriously; most believers hate serious sermons, they hate reprimands and exhortations because they don’t take pleasure in the Word of God any longer; they want to laugh, they want to joke, just as the people of the world. They even say to us: ‘God does not want us to sulk!’ But have we ever affirmed the contrary? It is written and we proclaim: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!’ (Philippians 4:4 – NKJV) and also: “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16 - NKJV). But what kind of joy Paul is speaking about? Paul is speaking of that joy which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and not of the false and deceitful joy which is caused by jokes. When I was a slave of sin I had plenty of this kind of joy and I caused people to laugh a lot with my jokes, but what good was that joy? It was useless to me because Paul says to the Romans: “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death” (Romans 6:21 - NKJV).

So you deceive your neighbor so that you may laugh; but have you never read that Scripture which says: “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘I was only joking!’ (Proverbs 26:18-19 – NKJV)? Listen, you who takes pleasure in entertaining the believers with jokes and witticisms: have you ever read that Scripture which says “all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify” (1 Corinthians 10:23 – NKJV)? And if you have read it, did you understand it or do you pretend you have not understood it? You justify your perverse language by all kinds of arguments, but you cannot confirm it through the Word of God because this offensive and dishonest language, that you like so much, is abhorred by God. Yet you ignore it and keep on using such a perverse language, not knowing that also because of this “the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6 - NKJV). When will you come to your senses? When will you acknowledge the truth? Be sober-minded, use clean language, seasoned with salt. It is written: “For the ear tests words as the palate tastes food” (Job 34:3 – NKJV); how is it then that your palate perceives that a certain food is insipid, but your ear has not yet perceived that your conversation is insipid? You have become dull of hearing and your ear has become calloused, so you don’t consider the words you speak, even though they are improper, dishonest and offensive. I exhort you to circumcise your ears, so that you may begin to expose the jokes you say together with your arrogant friends …. even during the worship service. If the righteous is grieved when he hears you speaking, it is because your jokes grieve the Holy Spirit of God, who is in Him and in you also; he does not take pleasure in your jokes because he pursues righteousness; you see that he is sad and angry because of your conduct but you don’t care about this because you feel strong, since besides you there are many others who use this perverse language.

As I said before, it is a rare thing to see brothers speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs; the reason is because many don’t want to do the right things rather they want to do the wrong things. In the Church, a brother who is filled with the Holy Spirit and speaks with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, troubles those who take pleasure in witticisms and jokes. In order to be esteemed and accepted by some, it seems that one needs to tell continually jokes, and speak ambiguous words, even from the pulpit and not only when one meets the brethren outside the place of worship. On the contrary, persecutions and insults await those who have decided to put the Word of God into practice. Why? Because they are ‘fanatic’, ‘too much spiritual’, ‘a real misery’. There are some preachers who in their sermons mention more witticisms than biblical passages, and if you tell them that witticisms are not to be said even from the pulpit because that’s not the way the Word of God must be preached, then they reply: ‘We think that Jesus told some jokes to His disciples sometimes, and that the apostles also told some jokes while they were teaching?’ Listen, you who have not yet given up preaching with witticisms and jokes; neither Jesus nor the apostles preached the Word of God stuffing their messages with witticisms as you do. Therefore, repent, why do you mix the sacred with the profane? Can’t you see that certain false prophets are more serious than you when they preach; you are puffed up, that’s why you say those things. I know that your hearers like very much your witticisms and jokes, for they laugh, they move their head to show you that they agree with you, they wave their handkerchief, they clap their hands when you tell them your jokes. You think you are very important, so esteemed; they, who don’t have enough discernment, almost bow down before you!! Purify your hearts and then you will cease entertaining your hearers with jokes. “Let your laughter be turned to mourning” (James 4:9 – NKJV); it’s time for you to put in practice this word.

Beloved, let us ask God to set a guard over our mouth and let us put bits into our mouth; this does not mean that we must not speak at all, but that we must be slow to speak and that when we speak we are to use a sound speech; if we do these things we will prosper. Certainly, we all stumble in many things (James 3:2), so we all make mistakes when we speak, sometimes because we are hasty, some other times we are in high spirits because of a spiritual victory but our attention is distracted all of a sudden and that lack of attention costs us dear, some other times unintentionally (that is, without premeditation) we say something which is incorrect. Nevertheless, we want to be perfect; surely the mistakes we make will not stop us from aiming for perfection because we wish to be an example …. also in speech, by speaking truthfully and seriously and peaceably to one another, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, comforting one another with the words of God, telling Bible stories or Christian testimonies to edify one another, giving thanks for all things to God the Father.