How’s your language? Do you routinely use dirty language and tell jokes with indecent innuendos? Or do you watch what comes out of your mouth to make sure it brings glory to God and accurately reflects who He is to others?
“Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” (Ephesians 5:4)
We intuitively know what dirty talk and inappropriate language is, but sometimes it helps to compare several translations to get the gist of a particular Bible verse:
“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” (NIV, 2011)
“Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes–these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.” (NLT, 2007)
“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” (ESV, 2001)
“And there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” (NASB, 1995)
The contrast to dirty, foolish talk is, rather, the giving of thanks to God for what He has graciously provided us. At first glance, though, this might not seem like much of a contrast, because a contrast is typically between two opposites, or near-opposites. How is bad language the opposite of giving thanks to God?
Filthy, inappropriate talk and thanksgiving are, indeed, opposites because the former illustrates a wrong use of our minds and mouths—betraying a focus on the dirty and bad—while the giving of thanks shows the right use of our intellect and speech—reflecting a preoccupation on the goodness of God and what He has graciously provided overflowing in gratitude to the Giver. The goodness of God, after all, is what the minds of those who belong to Him should be focused on!
It is interesting that the Greek word translated “jesting” is eutrapelia, meaing “A wit, but since such persons are very apt to deviate into mischief-making and clownishness, eutrapelosis is sometimes used in a bad sense as a scoffer, a sneerer. In a bad sense it means obscene jesting, to which Paul probably refers in Ephesians 5:4, the only usage in the NT.” (Zodhiates)
Interestingly, the Old Testament, although originally written in a different language, comments on how we should respond to those who use their sharp wit to scoff at or scorn righteousness:
“Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1,2)
According to examiner.com, “To ‘sit in the seat of the scornful’, in plain English, means to dwell in the seat of a judge, passing judgment in scorn and ridicule of others, holding them in derision,”—one of the sins today’s verse warned us against.
So, what are you thinking about? Are you thinking about God—who He is, how great He is, and all that He has done for you personally in your life—or is your mind entrenched in the gutter of sin? Remember that your speech—whether used to thank God or for sin–is only reflecting what your mind is already preoccupied with.
Help us see—help us truly be impressed—with who You are and how magnificent You are, that our mouths may not fail to give You the thanks You so highly deserve! Amen.