Single post

Four Letter Logic

October 1st, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 4: 24 (NLT)

24 Avoid all perverse talk;
      stay away from corrupt speech.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

It was about four years ago.  Laura and I were riding in the backseat of an SUV with a friend of ours and his family.  We had just left church and were heading to lunch.  We shared the backseat with one of his children who was about five years old the time.  The conversation was light and friendly.  At one point, though, my friend’s wife leaned in and began whispering something in his ear.  Whatever it was, he suddenly seemed shocked.

As he drove, he asked the five-year old in the backseat about what he had said during Sunday School that morning; specifically, about what word he used.  As if it was no big deal at all, the little boy piped in, “What?  I just told her that I didn’t want any of her d*** candy!”  My friend almost ran off the rode and Laura and I both doubled over, barely able to contain our laughter as the boy’s parents “gently” explained to him that that word was inappropriate.  The moment was priceless.

Another little girl we know, about the same age, had accompanied her mother to the bank.  Wide-eyed and curious as most little kids are, she was intently examining each and every detail of the interior of the bank.  One thing caught her eye, though.  It was the air-compressed tube that ran to the outside of the bank.  Watching the tube and the little capsules that zipped back and forth through it, she innocently asked her mother, “Huh, how the h*** did they do that?”

In our Christian culture, when we read this passage and other verses like it, we immediately take it to mean words of profanity or cussing.  We instruct our children (as I will instruct mine when she is old enough to understand) that there are certain words that we should not say.  Cuss words.  Curse words.  Dirty words.  Four-letter words.  There are many different names for them.

Stories like these are amusing, not offensive.  Why?  Because we know that these little children are not wicked or “perverse” because they regurgitate words they’ve heard on movies, television, or around other people.  No parent (I hope) would punish a five-year old to the fullest extent of their parental boundaries just because they happen to have had said one of these words in ignorance.

Cuss words are a part of our society.  Profanity is different in each culture.  For example, using the term “bloody” in Britain means something totally different than here.  This is true all over our world and to those who live outside of our nation, our four-letter “no-no” words are meaningless.  Words, outside of their cultural context, have absolutely no value or detriment in and of themselves.

Therefore, we must broaden our interpretation of this scripture.  Avoiding “perverse talk” and “corrupt speech” isn’t just a warning to not say cuss words.  Remember, our cuss words didn’t even exist when this passage was written.  What Solomon is really saying to his son is to avoid speaking things that indicate one’s heart is in the wrong place.  Perverse and corrupt things come from within; they cannot exist outside of a person’s internal possession of them.  Therefore, the words we speak themselves are not the problem; the problem lies in the heart that wants them spoken.

Words are the most significant part of personal communication.  With them, we communicate desire, need, elation, fear, pain, disappointment, anger, joy, thankfulness, and an endless list of other emotions. With our words, we propose marriage.  With our words, we express our anger towards a sibling.  Words can do many different things in many different situations.

Going well beyond just cuss words, perverse and corrupt speech could also mean gossip, backbiting, lying, deception, or expressions of hate.  These kinds of words can be spoken through inappropriate jokes in the locker rooms or inappropriate comments made to the opposite sex during late night phone conversations.  Of course, we all struggle to defeat the old lifestyle within us, but rest assured that when we actually speak about the things we are struggling with, it gives them life.  In other words, if you’re struggling with lust, the last thing you should be talking about is impurity.  It will only make the struggle much worse.  Anger is the same way.  An angry outburst is often just the necessary spark needed to ignite a forest fire of violence and regret.  

Gossip and backbiting have to be the worst.  These words desensitize us to the realistic pains of others.  The more we talk negatively about them, the less we care about them.  Gossip is the anti-compassion, callousing our hearts by the words that repeated flow out of them.  This is another kind of “corrupt speech” that we should avoid.

We let ourselves off easy by thinking that if we’re just not cussing that much, then we’re avoiding the wrong words.  Obviously, I agree that we shouldn’t be cussing, but I think that we may be missing the forest for the trees a bit on this one.  We can do more destruction with insensitive words of anger, rumor, and judgment.  Why?  Because the words are only reflections of the heart.

The good part is that if negative speech can cause so much damage, just imagine what good can be done with uplifting words.  Today, I choose to search my heart and ask God to clean my mouth out with His divine soap because every word I speak has the potential to do harm or to do good.





theme by teslathemes