“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” (Ephesians 5:4 (ESV)
The Apostle Paul transitions from the subject of sexual immorality to the issue of the tongue. Proper speech is an essential characteristic of the Christian.
James 3:6-12 says, “6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
Ephesians 4:4 begins with the words “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk.” Filthiness (αἰσχρότης; aischrotes) means obscene, shameful and indecent speech. Foolish talk (μωρολογία; morologia) refers to speech lacking in understanding and wisdom. Crude joking (εὐτραπελία; eutrapelia) is vulgar and indecent speech. It is speech which is not worthy of praise. It is not speech praising He who is worthy.
This type of speech the apostle says is out of place (ἀνήκω; aneko) meaning unfitting and improper. It is impropriate for a believer in Christ. Within the immediate context, Paul may be referring to sexual innuendo and crude joking involving sexual relationships.
How often do we use phrases and terms which are common in our culture? Are these words which build other believers up in their faith? Does our speech commend to unbelievers that we are holy men and women of God? Language in our culture can often times be quite vulgar and obscene. Believers in Christ must resolve to speak in a proper and God honoring manner.
One manner of speech which is God honoring is the giving of thanks. Thanksgiving (εὐχαριστία; eucharistia) is the expression of thanks and words of gratefulness (Acts 24:3; 1 Cor. 14:16; 2 Cor. 4:15; 9:11; Eph. 5:4; Php. 4:6; Col. 2:7; 4:2; 1 Thess. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:1; 4:3; Rev .7:12).
Dr. John Walvoord writes, “Improprieties in speech—obscenity (aischrotēs, “shameless talk and conduct”), foolish talk (mōrologia, lit., “stupid words”), and coarse jesting (eutrapelia, “vulgar, frivolous wit”)—are out of place for Jesus’ followers, because such vices often harm (cf. 4:29), whereas thanksgiving is appreciation for others and is helpful. Paul was not intimating that humor itself is sin, but that it is wrong when it is used to destroy or tear down others.”
Take time today to examine the programs you watch in visual media and the mobile apps you access. What is the content of the speech? Does it honor God? Are you being influenced by such speech?
Soli deo Gloria!