“Conduct yourself with wisdom in your interactions with outsiders (non-believers), make the most of each opportunity [treating it as something precious]. Let your speech at all times be gracious and pleasant, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to answer each one [who questions you]” ( Colossians 4:6 Amplified Bible).
If I could add to this verse, it would include “seasoned with salt and not colorful metaphors or expletives.” I have read many conversations on social media about how the Bible doesn’t say, “don’t curse,” “don’t swear” and “never defines inappropriate words.” But, do colorful metaphors and expletives flavor our conversations with salt or do they leave a bitter sound in the ears of those listening? Does it cheapen our testimony of the One who changed our hearts and gave us new life?
For those who claim the Bible doesn’t define swear or curse words and profanity, it doesn’t need to. If the instructions of God are written on our hearts, we will know which words are ‘unclean’ coming out from between our lips. This is more than just speaking the days of the week that are the names of pagan gods. Profanity comes from the word ‘profane’ or chol in Hebrew and means ‘common’. This suggests that we should not speak as the common people around us, but rather words that set us apart for God, bearing fruit for the Kingdom.
“Anyone who thinks he is religiously observant but does not control his tongue is deceiving himself, and his observance counts for nothing” (James 1:26).
“Let no harmful language come from your mouth, only good words that are helpful in meeting the need, words that will benefit those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29).
My mother never cursed or swore with four-letter words. She never even said, “Oh my God” because she believed that was taking the Lord’s name in vain. She worked for a judge and hated his foul language. His colorful metaphors never benefited her ears nor did it make her job a pleasant one. It was a constant thorn in her soul while she worked for him.
I can’t say that my mouth was always as pure as hers, however, I know her influence was profound in my life. I never, I repeat, NEVER, say “O my God” and it is repulsive when I hear it thrown about so freely as a common phrase –– even OMG! It technically may not be ‘taking the Lord’s name in vain’ as ‘God’ isn’t the name of the Creator, but it has cheapened the concept of the holiness of Adonai just as much as spewing “Jesus Christ” in a profane or angry way. The fact that I don’t believe Jesus Christ is the actual name of the Savior doesn’t make the curse less offensive.
When most people use a four-letter word or colorful metaphor around me, they apologize. I find that comforting, but also somewhat bizarre. These people obviously notice my lack of profane language, but still feel the urge to use four-letter words in my presence. To those who apologize to me, I want to say, “Quit apologizing. Either you’re sorry or you’re not. If you’re sorry, change; if not, don’t apologize.”
“With it we bless Adonai, the Father; and with it we curse people, who were made in the image of God. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing! Brothers, it isn’t right for things to be this way. A spring doesn’t send both fresh and bitter water from the same opening, does it? (James 3:9-11)
According to James, the tongue is a powerful part of the human body and compares it to a spring that brings forth salty water; it cannot also produce fresh water (James 3:12). Salt in this comparison leaves a place desolate like the Dead Sea. The Word of God is always compared to living water, springs of life. James says that we bless and curse God God with the same tongue!
Others using colorful metaphors never apologize because they don’t care. Like the county judge, they are un-redeemed. Nothing more can be expected of them. They live in darkness. They have a heart of stone. They have never received the Spirit of God into their lives. They are of the world and live like the world that promises no hope. We can never know anyone’s true heart condition, but our speech seasoned with salt may challenge them to ask questions about the hope of our faith.
The discouraging ones, those who utilize colorful metaphors, are those who claim to believe in Christ but aren’t convicted about what gushes out of their mouth. Their speech, seasoned with expletives and four-letter words, does not encourage anyone. Honestly, it destroys their testimony because it’s a walk without the ‘seasoned with salt’ talk. Their words blend into the darkness and no difference can be seen between their speech and the lost. For me personally, I feel a surge like an electric shock when ‘unclean’ words flow through a believer’s lips so easily.
I knew a woman whose speech was seasoned with several four-letter-words, some that most people would defend as acceptable speech. Each time those words flowed out of her mouth, I cringed wondering if she actually understood what her tongue was doing, whether she was ever convicted. I wondered if she knew how it affected my ears by the vacant stare in my eyes. Now her young daughter is grown and her speech is seasoned with exactly the same ‘salty’ words.
I have used colorful metaphors because I was once part of the world. When I became a disciple of Yeshua, I had to make a conscious decision to watch what came out of my mouth. An honest friend brought to my attention the ungodly words that flowed so easily from my mouth. In the beginning the struggle was real, but now those words rarely pop out of my mouth. I don’t want to sound like a sailor because I am a servant in Yeshua’s Kingdom.
I also raised four children. I didn’t want them to talk gutter language. I wanted them to speak intelligently and have their speech seasoned with kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. Sadly as each of them went into the world, those seeds were choked out by college friends and godless workplaces. I am hopeful as some have come to the conclusion they want to be more professional in their jobs. When they hear others speak colorful metaphors, they have become aware how slum-dog it sounds.
When a colorful metaphor does slip out of my mouth, I am immediately convicted to consider what darkness I am harboring in my heart that needs to be brought into the light. If I’m being honest with myself, the word either grew from unjustified anger in the moment, a lingering bitterness from a disappointment, stress that I let over take my day, or not having the wherewithal to salt my speech rather than slur my tongue.
The use of colorful language has fallen further into the gutter among everyone. The pain that comes out of believers in their speech shows the gospel of repentance to restorative healing is lacking. Daily stress causes many to cuss not realizing that God desires to give us His shalom. He wants us to turn back to Him with our tongues and be set apart. Those who see and hear us speak without colorful metaphors will recognize that we are part of “a chosen people, the King’s priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God to possess! Why? In order for [us] to declare the praises of the One who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
The Bible does have clear and definitive directions about the words that come out of our mouth. They need to be seasoned with salt, benefit and lift up those who hear them, and be acceptable in the presence of Adonai. As my mom used to say, “If you can’t say it in front of me, you shouldn’t be saying it.”
“May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be acceptable in your presence, Adonai, my Rock and Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
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