I want to make one important distinction before I continue this week’s article. The things I am writing here are for believers. It is of little or no value for us to convert a person’s speech without seeing them brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Our purpose as believers is not to become the speech police. We are living in a post-Christian culture in the United States and it concerns me that some believers are far more interested in converting the culture than they are seeing people genuinely converted to Christ. It would be more comfortable for us if the culture followed a set of rules on speech and cussing that conformed to the Christian world view, but that would only benefit us. What we should pray and work for is to see people truly converted to Christ. Therefore as I write these things, I am writing to those who know Jesus Christ. The issues being addressed here are issues of our transformation and sanctification. We are talking about holiness - and having a life that is radically different from the world around us. We are to live lives that draw people to Christ - when they see lives of purity, godliness, and a goodness that makes them desirous of knowing why we live like we do. So please know that this is not meant to be a tirade against the prevailing culture and the world system. It is meant to be a rebuke for the church that we’ve so adopted the culture around us when it comes to our speech and words. It is also meant to be a call to return to godly, holy lives and words that will attract others to the beauty of Christ within us - all to the glory of God.
One of the arguments that I hear commonly used to justify using bad language is that these are just words that “people” have turned into bad words. When that is said, it is said without a knowledge of the actual meanings of the words used - or the interesting things that are being said when using them. One of the things I learned from my parents is that most people cuss because they are either ignorant or angry. What was meant by that was this. The use of cuss words is primarily as adjectives or modifiers. Next time someone cusses around you - think about what they are actually saying. It actually is a very ignorant use of the English language. There are times when I hear someone truly unleash a string of these words that I wonder if they even know any adjectives - or if cuss words have come to replace modifiers in our current culture. The other part of that statement refers to the fact that many use this kind of language when they are angry. Their anger is expressed in using cuss words to denigrate the person or thing with which they are angry. Now, before you shrug your shoulders and wonder if I am a Bible teacher or an English teacher, let me get to my point. Cussing is a “perversion” of the English language. Each of these words are just words . . . but they are words that have a meaning to them. When we use them in the context of cussing, I can guarantee you that they are used in a way that has nothing to do with what they actually mean. Thus the one using them is speaking in a way that was described in earlier days as “perverse.” With that in mind let’s look at a few passages of Scripture.
The Bible has a lot to say about those with a “perverse mouth” or who use “perverse language.” In Proverbs 6:12, we read these words, “A worthless person, a wicked man, Is the one who walks with a perverse mouth.” Here we have a person with a perverse mouth. The terms used to describe this person are that he is worthless and wicked. The word worthless is the Hebrew word “belial” which means, “good for nothing in a moral sense.” What is fascinating is this word also appears in the Greek New Testament in its Greek form as a name for the devil. This is not exactly the association I want with the words I speak. The second word, wicked, is “aven” which means trouble, sorrow, evil, and often speaks of those who pursue iniquity and sin. Therefore the one who speaks with a perverse mouth is speaking in a way that is very ungodly.
In Proverbs 8:13 we read these words, "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate.” God is saying here what the fear of the Lord does in life. We find the usual things here of having evil, pride, arrogance, and the evil lifestyle. But at the end we find that the fear of the Lord also hates the “perverted mouth.” If we fear God we will not pervert words - or speak in a perverted way.
In Proverbs 17:20 we read how the one, “who is perverted in his language” often finds with that type of speaking a habit of falling into evil. Here is the text of that verse, “He who has a crooked mind finds no good, And he who is perverted in his language falls into evil.” Speaking as one who used to talk this way often before I was saved, I can confidently say that speaking this way never led me into righteousness or toward those who love the things of God. When I spoke that way in anger I can absolutely tell you that it led to me falling into evil. Consider this - and please be honest - have you ever felt that speaking in a perverted use of language led you closer to the Lord?
Proverbs 19:1 says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity Than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.” Speaking with a perverse use of language makes you look like a fool. I know the world has come to the point of valuing this kind of speech. It makes you look tough and more worldly. The opposite is true when you embrace a life of following and seeking after God. The Lord is the One I want to honor and impress - and He feels neither honored or impressed with someone who has a foul mouth. I heard of a time when a group of brothers who sought the Lord together were talking about the things of God when one of them used a cuss word in expressing himself. The whole atmosphere in the room changed - and things got awkward. It just was not appropriate. Not that there is a place where it is appropriate - because God is present in all conversations. The idea was that this was brothers speaking of their faith and wanting to help one another grow. Please understand that this was not a matter of judging the brother who spoke. I’ve often been in groups where newer believers were getting their start - and - there were times when flesh came out and growth was needed. You may hear that kind of language in the world regularly - but you hope the perverted mouth is something we want to lay aside as we grow in Christ.
One last passage is Proverbs 10:31-32 which says, “The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out. The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.” Here we see a contrast of the mouths of the righteous and the wicked. The wicked have perverted tongues and mouths. Their words are perverse. The righteous in contrast allow their mouths to “flow with wisdom” and to “bring forth what is acceptable.” Our goal, saints, is not to act and sound as much like the world as possible. Our goal should be to speak what is right and wise - especially among the lost. They know how their own speak and talk. We are to be different.
Saints, I want you to know that it is not my desire to be your personal “Holy Spirit word monitor.” But it is my purpose to help us grow into people who first of all love the Lord and fear Him, and second of all surrender to God’s sanctifying work in our lives every day. Perverse words are not a part of God’s plan in sanctification. He wants to purify our hearts - which should result in a purifying of our speech as well. I long for all of us to be wise. It should be clear from what we’ve read again and again in God’s book of wisdom (Proverbs) that a perverse mouth is something we need to lay aside as we learn to walk closer with the Lord. May we all become people whose speech is gracious, kind, wise, and winsome - so that those who hear us speak know that there is something markedly different about our hearts. May that work give us ample opportunity to tell others about the One who changed our hearts - and in so doing - changed the way we speak as well.