We live in a very desensitized society. From television to shopping we’re inundated with sensual and vulgar images and speech. These are obvious things from which Christians ought to abstain. However, there are many subtle areas of desensitization in American culture of which we’re often unaware. One of these subtleties is the euphemism.
As Christians, are we really concerned about our speech and influence upon others? If we’re not, then we should be concerned because the Bible has much to say concerning our speech as being that which builds up others through edification and benefits others instead of corrupting them. In speaking to new Christians who were young in the faith, the Apostle Paul made this truth very clear when he said, “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” (Eph. 4:29). In this context, Paul is explaining the new, transformed life these Gentile Christians were now to live, and part of this new life requires a transformation of speech from corrupt to graceful. This is the perfect example to guide our speech and communication patterns.
There are three ways we can use our speech in a corrupt way. First, we can curse someone. This is condemned by Jesus Himself in Matthew 5:22, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire”. To curse another person or even curse God’s creation is sinning against God. Second, we can use God’s name in vain. In Exodus 20:7, God told the Israelites, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain”. This is a timeless principle. God deserves our complete respect, and when we refer to Him in a vain or empty way we aren’t giving Him the respect he deserves. Third, we can make something God has made holy into something common. The sexual relationship is a perfect example we see used often in our society. God has set apart sexual intercourse to be only between husband and wife. Speaking lightly of this sacred relationship is to belittle it. Paul said, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Eph. 5:3-4). All “curse words” fall into one of these three categories.
So, at this point, you may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t curse, use God’s name in vain or make common what God has made holy”. However, according to Webster’s Dictionary, a euphemism is “the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant”. This means that, even when I use a word that doesn’t sound as offensive as the original, the meaning remains the same. Euphemistic cursing is so common that we’ve become desensitized to its use. So much so that we use these words without realizing what we’re really saying. We curse when we say “heck”, “darn” or “dang” because these words mean “hell” or “damn”. We use God’s name in vain when we say “gosh”, “golly” or “Gee” because they mean “God” or “Jesus”. We may even curse and use God’s name in vain all at once by saying “dog gone it”, which means “God damn it”. Then there are words that fall into the general corrupting talk category such as “shoot”, “crap”, “a-hole”, “chode”, “B.S.”, and they just keep getting worse. These euphemisms are so filthy, you may look up the definition for them yourself as it’s too uncomfortable to even list them.
We can very easily see that these and many other euphemisms fit into the category of “corrupting talk” as described by the Apostle Paul. As Christians, we desperately need to remember that we were sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11). May no corrupting talk cross the lips of any Christian.