For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. (James 3:2)
Ah James! He has so many challenging words to share about our speech and how it flows from our hearts. While it would be worthwhile to consider major subjects such as gossip or slander from the wisdom of James, today I want to contemplate a minor subject in our speech, ‘white-blasphemies’ (and blasphemy, the 3rd of the 10 Commandments, which is not simply limited to reducing God’s name to a swearword, but more about not reverencing His character). I bring up the subject of what I’m calling white-blasphemies because I was asked to do so. Some may think this goes too far or is not worth the effort, but I’ve long been convicted of the importance of wholesomeness of speech and purity of heart in these—admittedly—minor areas.
Consider a whole host of common phrases we use in ordinary [even Christian] English and what they are actually short hand for (hence white-blasphemies):
The list could go on…
When one pauses to consider what the white-blasphemy is actually veiling, it is disconcerting to see what we’re indirectly saying, even if when we use them there is no mal-intent. Good intent doesn’t mean something we say is right. This also raises the question why we even speak white-blasphemies in the first place.
Consider a common swear word, B***h. This is not a bad word in itself, it is the name for a female dog that breeders and farmers with sheep, etc, use all of the time. This word became a swear word when used in anger and frustration at one’s dog and then applied to women and beyond. When we use language inappropriately or negatively we reveal something much more serious than the words themselves, the inward disposition of our hearts.
Jesus said, “21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander [literally blasphemy], pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mk 7:21–23).
When we, in our hearts, are angry, frustrated, and anxious or, more positively, surprised or over-joyed we can say things to underscore or express our emotions. This can lead us to utter white-blasphemies. I think Christians could certainly find more appropriate words/phrases, and the subject, while minor, raises the deeper call to evaluate and guard our hearts (Pr 4:23). What is going on in our hearts when we feel compelled to make positive or negative uses of these white-blasphemies? Scripture tells us that watching our speech is a sign that we’re controlling our hearts, and control over our hearts is a sign that the Holy Spirit is producing fruit in our lives. The presence of the Holy Spirit shows that we are saved and know Jesus. May the Lord continue to sanctify our hearts and make our speech savoury—even in white-blasphemies—and may our wholesome speech bring glory to Him.
Check out a whole number of Bible verses on the subject of speech here.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.