Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Our Caged Canary

canary in coal mine

This past week I posted a short video about the use of profanity that came as close to going “viral” as probably anything I will ever submit to Facebook. Since Tuesday the video has been viewed about 2,200 times, shared by over 50 people, and liked and commented upon in much greater numbers than typical. It seems the article touched a nerve. I thought I would reprise the general message in this article, and offer a few more thoughts.

First, note that profanity is defined by Webster as “an offensive word” or “offensive language.” Cussing has become much more common in our society. This is a symptom of the coarsening of our culture, and does not excuse the use of such words. Any individual who considers himself polite and respectful should refrain from using profanity. When speaking in “mixed company” or in the presence of those you do not know well, it is very possible that profane words will offend.

Second, the Bible clearly categorizes profanity as sinful. Consider the command of Paul in Colossians 3:8, “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” Here Paul characterized such sins as characteristic of the “old man” which has been “put off”, and not appropriate for the “new man” they had become. In Ephesians 5:11, he wrote, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”

While I know that profanity is common, it should never emanate from the mouth of a Christian. Remember the words of our Lord, But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man” (Matthew 15:18-20).

One other observation. In the past profanity has always been associated with ignorance. In 1943 Betty White wrote a novel titled A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. A quote from that work describes the view held by most of that earlier generation of Americans regarding profanity and obscenities.

“They were emotional expressions of inarticulate people with small vocabularies.”

That is not the case in our time. In fact, studies have indicated that people who often curse typically have larger vocabularies than those who do not. If you equate the size of a person’s vocabulary with intelligence, then it can no longer be said that the profane are typically ignorant. However, it can still be said that they are uncouth!

So, why the change? My guess is it that our society has become increasingly secular, and the profanity reflects that. When people forget God, debasement is the result. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Romans 1:28). Some may claim it is a “small thing”, and in the big picture of a culture devoid of righteousness there are certainly more egregious examples of shameful acts. However, profanity, obscenity, scatological humor and sexual innuendo are very much the caged canary in the coal mine. They indicate a toxic moral stench that pervades our nation. People have forgotten God — and it sometimes only takes a few words in casual conversation to know this is true.