Thursday, December 8, 2011

The “F” Word

    When I was in the Army I probably heard the "f" word and the "s" word about as often you could count off the minutes on a clock (military time, of course!). In civilian life these words are used mostly for their shock value, but in the military their edge has been dulled and blunted through long overuse. But I still hated these words nonetheless.

    The problem is that once you become accustomed to hearing the words, you begin to realize that they almost always express feelings of anger or contempt. They invariably betray an attitude of hostility on the part of the speaker, and it is that underlying hostility that makes the words vulgar and obscene.

    Jesus once made what seems like an extreme comment: "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'you fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matt. 5:22; NKJV). The word "raca" is an Aramaic word meaning "empty one," and was used as a term of abuse.        

    Why would Jesus consign someone to hell for calling someone else names? It seems incongruous to us. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me," we tell our children. God, however, seems something entirely different. He sees what is going on in the heart.

    On another occasion Jesus put it like this: "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man" (Matt. 15:11). Pressed for an explanation, Jesus elaborated: "Do you not understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man . . ." (vv. 17-20). In other words, the problem, strictly speaking, is not the mouth; it is the heart, and the mouth merely reflects what is in the heart.

    The real problem is that the intent of the heart is evil. In our hearts we harbor malice, lust, envy and greed. Because we do not express all of our feelings openly, the tongue is only a small measure of what is really inside of us. It is no wonder, then, that the Bible does not present a flattering view of the tongue: "Their heart is an open tomb:/ With their tongues they have practiced deceit." "The poison of asps is under their lips." "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." These verses, all taken from the Book of Psalms, were quoted by the Apostle Paul in his stinging indictment of human depravity in Romans 3:19-18 The filth that actually comes out of the mouth is only the half of it.

    Will God simply let all of this go by? By no means. On yet another occasion Jesus warned the Pharisees: "But I say to you that for every idle word that men may speak, they will give an account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matt.12:36,37). In God's sight it is the motive and the intent that count. If we feel intense anger and express that anger verbally, then we have the same evil desire as the reckless fool that actually goes out and actually commits homicide. The fact that we did not act on our desires through fear of punishment hardly makes us moral persons. We are simply cowardly would-be murderers.

    Thus the profanity and verbal abuse that we hurl at each other is a symptom of a deeper problem: a depraved heart that is essentially wicked and godless. Profanity is not just a harmless amusement; it is a symbol of all that is wrong with the human race. May God have mercy on us all!    

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