No Corrupting Talk

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV), “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

I have struggled with speech since I was a child.  Initially, it was a matter of pronunciation.  I could not say my Rs, and my father would exploit this by having me “make the noise that pirates make,” when around friends.  I would say, “Awwwwww,” to which he would reply, “Oh, the sympathetic pirate.” 
When I was a teenager, I justified cursing by saying that the scripture did not say that I should not curse, but instead, that I should not speak crudely. Ephesians 5:4 (ESV), “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”  

And to be honest, I think I did have a point.  These words do not have to be crude and the s word is no more crude than other words that are more socially acceptable.  Nonetheless, I would use the words in a crude manner.   As I studied scripture, I realized that while my logic might have been technically true 1.)  I did often use many words in a crude way and 2.) If certain words offend others, it is best not to use them, even if they are not technically wrong to say.  3.)  Jesus’ standard for crudeness is actually higher than the world’s standard.  There are many “non” curse words that can be crude.

So I gave up cursing, for the most part.  But my struggle with speech still exists.  Proverbs 15:12 reads, “Mockers resent correction, so they avoid the wise.”  Elizabeth called me out on this while we are still dating.  Our culture loves to mock.  We love to make fun of people different than us.  We love to ridicule celebrities.  Yet, this is mockery is not uplifting.  The spirit of Christ is not in it.  And this is where I struggle.  I like to make people laugh, and I have been known to mock others for a laugh.  In fact, there is a lot I will say and do for a laugh.  Humor is not a sin, but often the things we find humorous are.  As a Christian, I’m called to a higher standard (Christ's);  I can cause laughter in a benign way in which there is no crude speech or mockery, then that is great.  If not, it would be better for me to hold my tongue.

On this particular Monday, my task was to go to the health department and see the initial refugee screening visit.  While waiting, a fire alarm was pulled (and based on how long it took to clear it…maybe there was a fire?).  It just so happens that it was pouring outside, and I had no umbrella.  My co-workers and I walked aimlessly in the rain until we came to a covered bus stop.  It was crowded, and we were drenched.  One of the woman who was working with me had worn a shirt which was transparent from the down pour.  She was shivering as she covered herself with her arms.  Then an elderly woman who was carrying her tank of oxygen passed by with no umbrella, looking for a place to get dry.  I called her over and gave her my place under the shelter.  At this point, it seemed wise to just run to my car, go home, and change my clothes.  In 2 hours, I had to be at Strong, and I was drenched beyond repair.  I drove home, and as I drove, it dawned on me that all my co-workers were drenched, and they might need a change of clothes.  I specifically thought of the young lady who was visibly cold and somewhat humiliated.  I pulled a few extra dress shirts from my closet, called Elizabeth and got directions for cloths she would not mind donating.  She mentioned getting a few of her t-shirts too to make sure that the ladies had something they found acceptable.  This seemed like a good idea and inspired me to get a few more t-shirts of my own to give away.  After all, the refugees were cold and wet and could use a change of clothes too.  I drove back to the health department intent on giving them away. 

The security team, however, would not let me back in.  I passed by once and was rejected.  Thinking of the parable of the persistent widow, I passed by again, this time explaining the situation, “I know there is a fire alarm.  My car was just in the parking lot.  The parking lot is not on fire.  I will not go into the building.  Please let me give away these clothes.”  Rejected.  I drove by again, this time pulling closer to the security guard and pleading with her.  Rejected.  I even drove to the other security guard who at this point had completely ignored me (and was exceptionally more rude in the process), but he rejected me and yelled at me in the process, “you are blocking traffic!” (I was not).  My dad always said, “It is always right do the right thing.”

It is not always sinful to be confrontational.  I think I was justified in what I did. 

But sometimes, I need to be silent.  Before we went to bed I said something stupid that hurt Elizabeth.  I don’t remember exactly what I said, and when I said it, it did not occur to me that it would be hurtful.  It was.  I have much work to go toward taming my tongue.  And this day served as a good reminder.


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