Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Word on Words

Eph 5:4
Neither FILTHINESS, nor FOOLISH TALKING, nor JESTING, which are NOT CONVENIENT: but rather
giving of thanks.

filthiness - KJV
obscene (talk) - NRSV
* obscenities- impolite, rude, or offensive words- e.g. cussing
* also referring to behavior- aischrotes is not specific to words only except possibly
within the context of this verse

foolish talking - KJV
* foolish words - subject matter that is untrue or unrighteous

jesting - KJV
vulgar (talk) - NRSV
coarse joking - NIV
* coarse joking- obscene humor

not convenient - KJV
not fitting - NKJV
out of place - NIV

Obscenity is pretty clear. In today's society, one example would be cussing. Of course, as with dress and music, language norms are defined by society and change going forward. Perhaps 50 years from now f--- will be polite language, although I doubt it. It is only within the last century that pants have come to be considered acceptable for women.
How does the church respond in this environment? I don't believe it is the churches' job to be the progressives. The church should take a conservative position within society and instead of a knee-jerk reaction against societal shift should be open yet careful. In 20 years the progressives of today will be the conservatives, and the church will move with that to the extent Scripture is not explicit against it. This is not a bad thing. Just because something shocked our grandparents doesn't mean it is wrong. Shock is just as psychological as it is moral.

Discussion that is unrighteous is "foolish talk." As we remember from Pro 24:9, "the thought of foolishness is sin," and how much more sinful is the discussion of it? The difference between "sin" and "foolishness," Biblically, is very slight. If we rephrase that verse to say that the thought of sin is sin, most would be quick to reply that we are often tempted, and temptation is the thought of the possibility of sinning, but it is not sin to be tempted. So then foolishness is the carrying out of sin, which begins when we devise to sin and continues when we discuss how to sin and culminates when we commit the act.

Foolish talk then is that talk which commits itself to the idea of sinning. Foolish talk is not merely discussing sin but putting forth sinful words or plans to commit sins. Sin, of course, is anything contrary to God's law. Foolish talk would include high school guys discussing how to get a girl in bed. It would include tearing someone down. It would include spreading gossip. It would include discussing plans to shoplift.

Eutrapelia really refers to humor that would fall under the first two categories. So what is being said is, obscenities, foolish talk, and humor which is obscene or foolish is out of place for you (as Christians). The best translation is "coarse joking." You may remember Pro 14:9, "fools make a mock at sin."

Paul tells us that these kinds of words are not proper for us. The are out of character for the Christian and represent the opposite of what a Christian should be.

Mat 12:36
But I say unto you, That every IDLE WORD that men shall SPEAK, they shall give account
thereof in the day of judgment.

idle - KJV
careless - NASB/NIV
* not pertaining to serious matters

word - KJV/All versions
* content or subject matter of what is being communicated

speak - KJV
utter - NRSV

The interesting thing about this verse is that, contrary to popular perception, Jesus isn't saying "idle words" are wrong. This verse is similar to Mat 5:18 ("jot or tittle") and Mat 10:29 ("sparrows...shall not fall") in that Christ is placing attention on a small part of something to show us that He takes the whole very seriously.
In this case, even talk which is not taken seriously will be judged. No words we speak are insignificant enough to escape specific judgement when we stand before God.

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