“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:1-5).

Our speech should not contain obscenities, foolish talk, or coarse joking. The Bible commands us to avoid these things without defining them. The Apostle Paul assumed the Ephesians would know what he was talking about. Obscene and filthy words are not in most dictionaries, but we understand what they are. People use obscene language, not because they do not know it is filthy, but because they doknow. There is a certain delight in the use of something vulgar and unclean.

Some people like to quibble about definitions, assuring us that the words they use are not obscene: they’re just colorful, or poetic, or it is the hearer who has the problem or the dirty mind. Other people would not dream of saying anything dirty. They think they can be innocent and expressive at the same time, so they use exclamations which are euphemisms for the dirty words. Examples of such euphemisms are “Shucks!,” “Heck!,” “Shoot!,” and “Dang it!” Some euphemisms for using the Lord’s name in vain are “Dog-gone it!,” “Golly!,” “Gosh!,” “Gee Whiz!” and “Dag Nab it!” There are many others that I do not have the freedom to write. Innocent? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Here is what Jesus said about the words we use:

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

Do I have to walk around in fear because of this clear teaching about carelesswords? No. There is a preventative: “…and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5b).

When our thoughts are obedient to Christ, our mouths will be obedient, too.

*Excerpted from Being Christian. To purchase, visit ccmbooks.org/bookstore.