How We Talk
Part 3 – Getting Rid of the Potty-Mouth
April 25, 2010
NOTE: THE ME/WE/GOD/YOU/WE FORMAT IS FROM ANDY STANLEY'S BOOK, "COMMUNICATING FOR A CHANGE."
You’ve all had the opportunity now to look in your bulletin and see the name of today’s sermon.
So let me ask you think for a moment, and don’t answer out loud, but just think:
When I use the term, “potty-mouth” what comes to mind?
Some of you are probably being waaay to literal in your mind and bringing a picture to that…
Let me guess what some of you are thinking:
Some of you are thinking in terms of cursing, or “cussing” as I grew up saying it. Not just the word – I used to actually cuss – a lot.
And to be honest with you, at times, the words still form in the back of my head – just like the Ken Davis video, right?
I think it’s safe to say that most people, especially if they grew up either using those words or hearing them a lot, are tempted to use them at times.
You hit your head on something – doesn’t happen too often with me, and when it does my biggest concern is whether or not people will see the mark!
Or in the middle of the night you crack your shin on a coffee table that isn’t in the right place because someone moved it for one reason or another.
You get your cell phone bill…
And you want to just let it out and hope no one hears you.
For some people those words are just a normal part of conversation and they don’t even think of them as swear or cuss words. They’re just as natural as any other word for many people.
But guess what – that’s not where I’m going today.
God: Our passage for today is Ephesians 4:29 –
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
I’m not going to discuss things like “cussing” – using the F-word, the S-word, or words that are borderline cussing and may be offensive to some, including me.
I agree that there are some words and phrases that are never appropriate in any setting, and some of us will disagree on other words and phrases that might be included in that category, but we’re not going there today.
As unwholesome as that talk is, today I want to talk about three forms of unwholesome talk, or potty-mouth, that Scripture addresses and that I think are actually much more dangerous than even using the F-word.
These things are considered by God to be not just sinful, but harmful to His reputation, which is holy, and to the reputation of His Church overall.
These three forms of potty-mouth do damage to the Kingdom of God and to the image of Christ, and need to be addressed in some very strong terms.
Let me tell you something right up front: if anyone is offended today, it’s probably because you’re guilty of one or more of these, and the Holy Spirit’s talking to you.
And my hope is that you will allow Him to draw you to repentance and from this day forward going in a new direction in your speech.
Here’s the first form of potty-mouth I want to address today:
This one and the next are pretty closely related.
Slander is basically spreading a bad report, a bad reputation about someone. It also means “whispering” and carries the idea of whispering behind someone’s back.
The issue here is that you are talking negatively about someone, usually behind their back, although it doesn’t have to be behind their back, it can be quite public.
Slander doesn’t necessarily mean lying, either. It can be truthful, but it’s spread with the idea of hurting someone else.
You may have some inside hurtful information about someone and because you want to hurt them, you let other people know what that is.
Let’s see what Scripture says about slander:
Proverbs 10:18 –
He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.
Proverbs 17:14 (NLT) –
Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander.
Matthew 15:19 –
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
I think it’s pretty significant to note that Jesus lumps slander in with things like murder, adultery, and sexual immorality, don’t you?
Not exactly wholesome talk, is it?
Can you see why I would think that this is even more dangerous than cussing?
Here’s the second form of potty-mouth for today:
Gossip is both a thing and a person.
First, gossip is a rumor or report of an intimate nature. (Merriam-Webster’s)
But it’s also a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others (Merriam- Webster’s)
Here’s my definition of gossip (includes slander):
Saying anything about anyone without their knowledge or permission, even if it’s positive.
If you have information about someone and you want to share it, you really need to take the time and ask for their permission to share that.
Don’t assume you have the permission or that they wouldn’t care, because you know what? They probably do care. So ask.
Not convenient, is it? Then maybe you’ll think twice before sharing inside information about someone, right?
Grabbing hold of that definition has helped me be a lot slower about talking about someone else, that’s for sure.
Let’s look at some Scripture, shall we?
Proverbs 11:13 –
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.
Proverbs 16:28 –
A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.
I love what I saw in a denominational publication last week about gossip, and it also applies to slander.
It called gossip, “character assassination,” and I believe it to be true. The only reason for gossip is to hurt someone else.
Harriet, the church gossip and self-appointed supervisor of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business.
Several residents were unappreciative of her activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence. She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his pickup truck parked all afternoon in front of the town’s only bar. She commented to George and others that everyone seeing it there would know that he was an alcoholic.
George, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and then just walked away. He said nothing. Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of Harriet’s house and left it there all night... (Pulpit Helps, April 2003)
Would any of you characterize gossip as being the wholesome talk God wants for us to speak? I hope not.
There is absolutely nothing positive about it. Nothing.
Okay, let’s move on to potty-mouth category number three:
The most obvious definition of this is telling someone something that’s not true, whether it’s about you, them, or someone else.
The word used in the New Testament means counterfeit, falsehood, deception. (Strong’s)
To make an untrue statement with intent to deceive. (Merriam-Webster’s)
To create a false or misleading impression. (Merriam-Webster’s)
I’m hitting these definitions pretty hard here because I think that lying is one of the easiest things for people to rationalize or try to justify, or try to find loopholes for.
So let me say a few other things to help us get a handle on.
A lie is a deliberate misrepresentation of the truth.
“Stretching the truth” is lying.
“It was ‘technically’ the truth.” This is one I used to fall into the most, but God really convicted me about that.
It may have been “technically” the truth, but you misrepresented the spirit of what was being communicated. That’s a lie.
There is no such thing as a white lie. A lie is a lie, no matter how big or not matter how small.
“To lie a little is not possible; whoever lies, lies a whole lie.” (Victor Hugo)
I think there are only two main reasons people lie: to hurt someone else or to protect yourself from something you’ve done or said.
Neither are good reasons.
Here’s some Scripture:
Proverbs 12:22 –
The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.
Notice God doesn’t just dislike lying, He detests it. That’s strong language, I’d say.
John 8:44 –
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Folks, I don’t think it can be any clearer. Lying is not of God, it’s of the devil. And when you and I stoop to lying for any reason, we are not reflecting Christ we are reflecting the devil and saying that our allegiance is to him and not Christ.
But there’s another aspect of lying that we need to keep in mind, and that’s that a lie is like ripples in a pond. They don’t stop right there, they keep going and going and going and going, and before you know it, that lie has been spread so far that there may be no setting it straight in many cases.
One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat only has nine lives.” (Mark Twain – Pudd’nhead Wilson)
Folks, lying, especially about other people, can take on a life of its own. And it can kill.
Slander, gossip, and lying. None of these are wholesome talk, are they?
Is it absolutely plain that these three things should have no part in the life of a Christian?
You: So here’s what I want to do for the rest of our time today: focus on the last part of the verse:
…what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
And by the way, this is should obviously pertain not just to what comes from our lips, but also what comes from our pens and keyboards, right?
1. Repent, if these describe you.
It could be that you need some of that heart surgery we looked at two weeks ago, asking God to renew or replace your heart, since our heart comes out our lips.
2. Refuse to listen to these things.
Just refuse. When it comes up, either change the subject, or challenge them by asking if what they’re saying is appropriate and if they have permission to talk about that.
Tell them you’ve chosen to stop gossiping about others and that you wish they’d do the same.
This means you may have to change who you hang out with.
1 Corinthians 15:33 -
“Bad company corrupts good character.”
If you are working hard, cooperating with the Holy Spirit to help you in this area, but you’re hanging out with gossips, slanderers, and liars, you need to find some different friends. It really is that simple.
Not easy, but the solution is simple. Make new friends.
3. Stop and think before you speak.
Ask some questions before start talking:
Is it the truth? Do I really need to say this – to anyone? Will it benefit whoever hears it? How? How can I say this in a way that will build them up?
And most importantly: Will Christ be reflected in this, or the devil?
You need to stop, think, and pray to make sure you’re not letting these unwholesome things come out of your mouth.
And in some cases, you’ll simply need to just zip your lip and not say anything.
Believe me, that’s hard for some people, but it needs to be done sometimes.
4. Pray for wisdom in your speaking.
Ask God to help you speak only those things that will be helpful for building others up according to their needs.
We: Next week we’re going to talk about some ways that we can become more encouraging in our speech.
But in the meantime I’d like you to think more about the fact that our mouths reflect our hearts, just as Jesus said.
So it’s vitally important that we ask God to search our hearts.
Most of us are very familiar with Psalm 139:23-24 –
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
I think that all of us would agree that these three things – slander, gossip, and lying – are offensive.
If we’re willing to pray that and mean it, then God will honor that and show us where He wants to work in us.
And that’s the beauty of it. We’re not supposed to do it ourselves. We can’t. We need God’s help. And He’s ready, willing, and able to help us do it.
Why? Because it brings Him glory to change us to be more like Jesus so His Kingdom will grow and God gets even more glory.
The side benefits are awesome, too. We become people others like to hang around.
The church becomes a place where people can be real and be themselves without the danger of having their mistakes and failures hung out for everyone to see and judge them on.
The family grows stronger. And it grows bigger.
Get rid of the potty mouth. Get hold of God and watch Him work. In us and through us for His glory.