Why do we have mouths? From a Biblical perspective, primarily to praise God in our worship and in our witness - to proclaim the excellencies of God for His exalted glory in the exceeding joy of all in Jesus Christ. That is the highest use of our mouths and should be our highest aim in using our mouths. As such, we must keep our mouths out of the gutter. Do you have a clean mouth or a dirty mouth? Do you praise God with that mouth?
It's a pattern that is repeated over and over by too many: Words of praise to God come out one side of the mouth and words that are offensive to God come out the other side of the mouth. This pattern can be seen in the family that sings the praises of God in church, then gathers for lunch and the exchange of off-color remarks, dirty jokes, and vulgar language. This pattern can be seen with those that post something spiritual on social media, but then turn around and post something crude.
I see and hear some of the crass stuff - sometimes outright vulgarity - coming from long-time professing Christians, who espouse their allegiance to the Bible as God's Word, and wonder if they are reading the same Bible I am. I wonder if they have ever read the following:
Let no unwholesome [literally 'rotten'] word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
By the Holy Spirit, Paul's command is clear. There is not to be even a hint of a filthy lifestyle nor filthy speech among us. What the lost say and do for their entertainment is not to be what we say and do for ours. This is not a game. Anyone that persists in their immorality or uncleanness (any sexual immorality outside of marriage between a man and a woman, or, anything that is morally/spiritually dirty and defiling) will be condemned and cast away from the kingdom of God, by God in His wrath. So, should we really be speaking lightly of those sins, much less cracking jokes about them for good laughs? According to the Apostle Paul, absolutely not.
Let us not miss, however, that Paul not only forbids filthy language, but foolish language - "silly talk" - foolish speech. This is speaking words that are void of the wisdom of God - that outright contradict or even absentmindedly fail to communicate the wisdom of God in the will of God. Here is a sobering warning from the Lord Jesus:
Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:33–37; emphasis added)
If God will judge "every careless word that people speak", then should we not carefully choose every word that we speak? Should we not make sure that our hearts are filled with good treasure that overflows out of our mouths in good words? -Treasure and words that God calls good because they come out of His Word.
If you are a Christian and tend to have a dirty sense of humor, and a mouth to go with it - or if you have little to no filter on what comes out of your mouth - let me offer you some practical perspective on how your words are affecting your walk with Christ and your witness for Him in this world.
You are breaking your fellowship with Jesus any time you are carelessly speaking or cracking jokes about things for which He went to the cross and died. He took the wrath of God on Himself for us - wrath that was for our sins. Therefore, He does not find our sins funny, nor is He careless or casual about them. Crude jokes about crude things do not amuse Him, because those things anger Him, and He will return to this world one day to pour out His building wrath on the unrepentant. That is nothing to laugh about or carelessly talk about. When Jesus walked this earth in His own humanity, He clearly stated that His own speech was right in line with God the Father's:
He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50 I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me. (John 12:48–50; emphasis added)
While none of us can claim the perfection of speech that Jesus could, if we are going to walk with Him, His standard must be our standard. To fellowship with Him, what is in His heart must be in our hearts, to come out our mouths. The Father's Word must determine our words.
You are also nullifying your witness for Jesus any time you are carelessly speaking or cracking crude jokes. Here is some clear instruction from Paul on the kind of speech we are to maintain for our continual witness for Jesus to those that do not know Him:
Conduct yourselves [literally "Walk"] with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)
Time is slipping away. Each second that slips away is the depletion of opportunity that outsiders have to come to Jesus in saving faith and repentance. Therefore, we are to live wisely, metaphorically walking, not merely alongside them, but toward them, "making the most of the [decreasing] opportunity" to lead them to Jesus. To do this, we must speak, always taking great care to infuse our speech with grace and season our speech with salt. Grace pertains to words of profit, as we speak for outside sinners to gain life they don't deserve, rather than lose their lives in judgment that they do deserve - the same grace we have received from God in Jesus. Salt pertains to words of purity, as we speak enlightening truth to counter the darkness of deception, appropriate for the particular conversations we will have with each person God brings across our paths. We cannot do this if our speech is polluted with impurities. And outsiders notice if someone tries - if one tries to witness for Jesus with one breath, and spews filth with the next breath. That one loses all credibility with those that hear him. After 23 years in construction and the oilfield, I have seen it happen too many times. Watching Christian friends and family navigate the difficult path of fellowshipping with lost friends and family, I have seen it happen too many times. And every time, I have re-fortified my resolve to not let it happen to me, with God's help. I hope you will, too.
I have an ornery streak, and I like to cut up with friends and family. I have a good sense of humor, and I like a good joke. But there are lines we cannot cross. I hope you have eyes to see those lines, and if you have been crossing them, repent to the Father and ask Him to transform your mouth in the renewing of your mind, so that your speech is no longer conformed to this world but is only speaking His will, as your mouth is part of your living sacrifice to Him in your spiritual worship of Him (Romans 12:1-2). Purge your speech of all impurities: cuss words, crass words, off-colored remarks, and crude jokes. Dirty language and dirty jokes are called "dirty" for a reason. Keep their dirt out of your mouth (and stop laughing when something dirty comes out of another's mouth). Resolve to never again leave anyone thinking, "Do you praise God with that mouth?"
Photo by Zach Guinta
*All Scripture quotations from the NASB.