It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. One might think such a description is of Hollywood (the video entertainment industry), but although that would certainly be apt, it is actually James’ description of the tongue (Jas. 3:8). Your tongue. My tongue. James asserts that man’s tongue is exceedingly difficult to control and impossible to tame (Jas. 3:2,7,8).
Some people’s mouths spew a steady stream of filthiness and profanity. Their vocabulary seems to be limited to a couple hundred words, half of which would be considered vulgar or coarse by nearly anyone. In fact, this kind of person often enjoys “shocking” others with his or her speech. Teenagers often think that such speech makes them sound grown-up! No Christian should talk like that. We should put away filthy language out of our mouths (Col. 3:8).
Filthiness, foolish talking and coarse jesting (telling dirty jokes) are not “fitting” for saints, i.e., holy ones (Eph. 5:4). Filthiness and profanity of the above mentioned sort is easy to recognize, indeed, hard to miss. Many would be quick to point out that they do not talk like that. Not all profanity, however, is so well recognized. Profanity of a different “flavor” is quite common in the speech of some who would refrain from dirty jokes or the use of vulgar or coarse words.
The Decalogue of the Mosaic Law commanded the Israelites not to “take the name of the Lord in vain” (Exo. 20:7). God’s people were not to make reference to Him in an empty or meaningless way. The Lord was to be referred to with reverence and respect. As the commandment indicated, the Lord would not hold him guiltless who “misused His name” (NIV) in this fashion.
To use the words “Lord” and “God” in an empty or vain way is to profane the Lord’s name. To profane something is “to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use.” (Webster). It is the defiling of something holy. The conversation of some is littered with references to the Lord and to God while the mind never contemplates the divine Creator. Their use of these words is truly “empty” or vain; the words become merely convenient exclamations or expletives.
One of the problems in controlling the tongue is that we develop habitual patterns of speech. The tongue can be engaged even as the mind is idling. We say things without thinking about the consequences or even whether such speech is right or wrong. It is my fear that even Christians sometimes profane the Lord through their irreverent use of such words as “Lord” and “God.” It may be done in a thoughtless (not intentional or rebellious) way, but I do not believe that the Lord will hold us guiltless if we speak this way.
Examine your own speech. Are you in the habit of referring to the Lord in vain fashion? Under the Law of Christ, we likewise have an obligation to treat the Lord with respect (Heb. 12:14-16). Watch that tongue!