Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 (New American Standard Version)
When I was a kid some of the most unclean and polluted expressions were set in four letter words. I suppose things haven’t changed that much. Why so many cuss words came in four letters is still a mystery to me. As a youngster I observed that using one of those four letter words around an adult was pretty much the Kiss of Death.
It was surprising, then, as I grew older, that I realized there was a four letter word Christians used without moderation and which hardly ever drew even a raised eyebrow by believer or nonbeliever alike. That four letter word was j-e-r-k; ‘jerk.’ I used it myself with impunity, aiming it first in school at fellow students, and as I became older other drivers and even bosses, certain pastors and some brothers and sisters in Christ. There are other words too. Five and sixers, like ‘idiot’ and ‘doofus.’ One day, by God’s mercy and grace, I came to realize the words themselves were just guttural sounds and disappeared into the air the moment I uttered them, however it wasn’t the words themselves that Jesus condemned but the contempt of my heart that caused me to say them.
I had become desensitized to their use. Like the science experiment where one can boil a frog by putting it in cold water and turning up the fire I was taught to look at the words as evil (the cold water) and ignore the contemptuous spirit behind them (the fire). I slowly allowed my conscience to be cooked and it was pretty easy to use these words against others without much thought or regret. Down deep I really did know it was wrong to say these kinds of things about another person but I was always very good at rationalizing my situation. Was it really that big of a deal? After all it wasn’t one of the BAD four letter words. Jesus said contempt is pretty serious. If one is angry with a brother he is guilty before the court, if he says to another person “Raca” (you are worthless) he will be guilty before the supreme court but whoever calls his brother (or sister for that matter) “fool” will be in danger of fiery hell (Matthew 5:22). The word “fool” itself isn’t the point here but disrespectful attitude and contempt of the heart. Being honest at this point, even though I rarely say the words now, I do often find myself thinking them at moments of frustration and irritation as the old contempt rears its ugly head. The good thing is the Holy Spirit does help me not linger in my anger and redirects my thoughts so I can take hold of the better part (Luke 10:42). There are some really good four, five and sixers I can imitate in my life and speak, like ‘care,’ ‘edify,’ and ‘esteem.’ They’re little words but they can speak volumes when I allow Christ to speak them through me.
There is no law against love. Anyone hearing those excellent and uplifting words and statements can only reply, “Well said.”