Lamps on a Hill
Let no evil speech proceed from your mouth; but that which is good, to the edification of faith, that it may administer grace to the hearers.
~ Ephesians 4:29 (Douay-Rheims 1899)
Since we have a “memory verse” each week — okay, it's actually every ten days, to give people who want to remember it a little extra time — it seemed like a good idea to reinforce it by discussing it during the same week here in Daily Inspiration.
How do we deal with all of the foul language in our culture? Really, this verse can be read to cover a number of different situations. The first is what we would call foul language. (This actually doesn't bother me, personally, and I have had to learn to avoid using “cuss words” for the benefit of other who it does bother; just as Paul says, do not eat meat sacrificed to idols. Even if it is meaningless, as it may be detrimental to the faith of one of your brothers or sisters.)
But surely it includes blasphemy, and also, words that might bring others towards sin and away from Christ. What does it mean, if we become so calloused to an expression like “G--damn it!” that we don't even notice it, and possibly even use it ourselves. There is so much wrong with that expression. The fundamental idea that we have the right or power to judge others. The lack of Christian love in the idea that we would even think of
Artists often speak about the concept of negative space, which most of us don't really quite understand; but in terms of foul language of all types, we can see the same concept in behavior. What impact does it have on those around us, and upon ourselves, if we don't use such language. And in the same vein, if we don't watch television shows, movies, etc., that offend Biblical teachings?
It is very subtle. Nobody is going to sit up and take notice. Here is a sentence we are not likely to hear: “Did you hear the language that man was using? He didn't use the “f” word a single time!” But over the course of time, if you refrain from using foul language, you are going to impart a subtle message to everyone who hears you speak.
It is indeed the use of negative space; but consider the alternative. Christ commanded us to shine like a lamp set on a table, proving light for all in the house. How can we shine with Christ's light if what comes out of our mouth is inherently offensive? Some foul language (again, the “f” word and the “s” word are examples) are not really unchristian. But are these words that administer grace to the hearers? Is using them bringing us, or our listeners, closer to Christ? In most cases, the answer is no.
As for the other kinds of speech that might be covered by the verse —blasphemy, gossip, backbiting, negative comments about other, etc. — the answer is, in all cases, no. Let what comes out of your mouth show the pure and brilliant light of God. For as Christ said, we are not defiled by what goes into our mouths, but by what comes out of them.
Lord, let my speech always reflect the purity of Christ. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer