The Matter of Profanity


     Introduction: Profanity is defined as, "Characterized by irreverence for God ("profane," dm)…impious, base…, a profane act or utterance" (R. H. C. D. pg. 1056, 1057).  Profane speech is typically language that involves taking God's name in vain, vile or vulgar, viciously degrading to others, and/or gutter in nature. The Bible regulates man's speech (Ex. 20: 7, Jas. 3: 10, Matt. 12: 36, 37).

I. The prevalence of profanity.

  A. According to some of the latest statistics, public profanity in America is up by 800 percent (June of '01). One can now expect there to be loud profanity in many public places, even places that purport to provide a family atmosphere. Women and children are now often heard emitting expletives without any shame or regard for others.

11. Common influences of profanity.

  A. The influences behind the incidence of public and private base speech are many.

    1. The entertainment industry (movies) deserves a top billing as far as being a leader to the shameless corruption of speech. Many movies that are now considered family oriented contain vile, filthy, and cheap language. As people watch television, they become more desensitized. We have come along ways since "Gone with the Wind."

    2. There is a movement in America to promote filthy speech. According to an article appearing in the Rocky Mountain News (September 8, 2001, by Diana West), the major television networks (NBC, ABC, and CBS) have a pledge: "According to a front-page report in The New York Times, the networks' solution to restore their endangered audiences is this, to put more dirty words on the air. This is not a joke, it is a movement. The networks are being inundated this year with scripts 'that include every crude word imaginable, including one considered to be on the furthermost reaches of decorum,' the newspaper reports…" The author continues: "Aaron Sorkin…is hoping his network will break with tradition and allow one of his characters to 'curse in a way that uses the Lord's name in vain….'"

    3. Most stand-up comedians would be speechless if all profanity were extracted from their scripts. The goal now seems to be reaching greater or lower levels of degrading language, to the point of simply wallowing in the gutter. Another and primary reason for the impetus of impious language is the depravity of man (Matt. 15: 15-20).

    4.What people read can be of negative influence as well.

III. God's word condemns profane language of all types.

  A. Notice the list found in Ephesians 5: 4.

    1. "Foolish talking," "Jesting," compare "vain words" (vs. 6). Albert Barnes comments thus: "This word…does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It means that kind of talk which is insipid, senseless, stupid, foolish; which is not fitted to instruct, edify, profit, the idle chit chat which is so common in the world. The meaning is, that Christians should aim to have their conversation sensible, serious, sincere…. Nor jesting….This word occurs also nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means…levity, which is evidently the meaning here" (Barnes on the New Testament, Vol. 7, pg. 96, 97).

    2. Language that uses God's name in vain (cp. Ex. 20: 7, Lev. 19: 12).

    3. Speech involved in idleness or speaking against God (Matt. 12: 36, 37, 24).

    4. Language that curses man (Jas. 3: 9).

    5. Common place oaths and euphemisms of all types (Matt. 5: 34-37, Jas. 5: 12, proper oaths are not condemned, Heb. 6: 17, I Thes. 2: 10).

  B.Language that blasphemes God and belittles man reveals the corrupt nature of the speaker and must be "put away" (Matt. 15: 20; Col. 3: 8; Jas. 3: 10-12).

IV. Useless language must be replaced with good speech.

  A. Paul enjoined, "Let no corrupt communication ("speech," dm) proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (Eph. 4: 29).

    1. Proper and scriptural language can largely be determined by its nature and results (cp. Col. 4: 6, some will not like or appreciate the truth, I might add, Gal. 4: 16).

     Conclusion:  The Christian must develop the proper vocabulary. Such a vocabulary even involves the use of acceptable words to articulate spiritual truths (2Tim. 1: 13).