There’s a children’s song, “Be Careful Little Eyes,” that has quite a few verses to it. One of them goes like this:
O be careful, little tongue what you say
O be careful, little tongue what you say
For the Father up above
He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little tongue what you say.
It goes with motions and is very cute, but the message is profound.
God knows what we say. He cares how we say it.
As you all know, I read a lot. I've limited myself mostly to “Christian books,” classics, and books written long ago. I might give a modern writer a chance, but if I discover that the moral tone and/or the language isn’t right, I put it down, recycle it, and make a mental note to myself. It’s not that the writer isn’t gifted, but the content isn't helpful.
There’s a disturbing trend, though, and even pastors aren’t immune. I’ve read some excellent books that I can’t recommend—non-fiction, about the Christian life—because they use crude language. I’m not referring to curse words. I’m talking about crude words. They’re the kinds of words my own parents would never have let us say!
My question is why? Why do Christians—especially Christians in leadership—think it’s okay to use crude, rude, and vulgar words?
Some writers make a great effort to keep their work squeaky clean. They never use crude words—even in action fiction and thrillers. They may refer to someone swearing without putting the words on the page. They don’t use ugly language for body parts. I love reading their books, because I never have to worry.
Why do others—including Christians—think it’s okay to use vulgarities? I’m not sure, since most of our parents taught us right.
Years ago, as my husband and I were trying hard to learn Spanish, I said a Spanish word that caused the hearer to stop and stare. It was a word I'd learned by listening to the people at church. I had heard the pastor and his wife say it. I thought it was the way you said it in Spanish! The person who heard me said, “That sounds terrible coming from your mouth.” I was mortified and explained that everyone says it that way. He said, “True, but when someone has studied the language and learned it correctly, he shouldn’t use crude words.” Okay . . . . So, I asked him for a better word for the concept and he taught it to me. Lesson learned! From then on, if I had a doubt, I opened my trusty dictionary. Oh my! What surprises were in store!
So, we strive to use better words, educated talk, the terms that describe things delicately.
I thought about making a list of offensive words in this post, but that would be stooping. I also don’t want to plant any of them in your mind.
Instead, here are eleven biblical tips for filtering your words, writing, and general vocabulary:
- What is the most pleasant or delicate way you can say what needs to be said? The words of the pure are pleasant words (Proverbs 15:26b).
- Do your words uplift and encourage your hearers? Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).
- Are your words offensive to other Christians? (Would the elderly people in your church be put off by them?) For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body (James 3:2).
- Are you being tactful even when counseling or with constructive criticism? A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1).
- Do you gossip? Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge (James 4:11).
- Are your words the most refined word choices? A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver (Proverbs 25:11).
- Are there any particular words in your vocabulary that should be gotten rid of? (Ask the Lord to make you aware of your speech. This is a process.) Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things (Proverbs 8:6).
- Do your words bless God? Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty (Psalm 104:1).
- Do you always speak truth? A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies (Proverbs 14:5).
- If the Lord were to hear the last sentence you said or to read the last sentence you wrote, would He approve? The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3).
- Are you actively spreading the gospel? But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak (1 Thessalonians 2:4a).
I’m sure all of us have been offended at one time or another by careless words. We might have been offended by crudeness or cursing. We may have used less than fine language ourselves.
Today, with all of our connectedness—social media, instant messaging, etc.—it’s easier than ever to use an inappropriate word and offend. Let’s be very careful.
Let's also remember that it’s most important to please God!
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart,
be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD,
my strength, and my redeemer.