Guest Posts

Guest Post: Mackerels, Schmoley, and the Spirit of God

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Mackerels, Schmoley, and the Spirit of God

by Michael Coughlin

What do mackerels, “schmoley,” and the Spirit of God have in common? If you listen to people in normal conversation, apparently all these things are holy.

Did you see something that surprised you, but you’re a Christian so you don’t want to blaspheme God? Just exclaim, “Holy mackerel!” Maybe you don’t even know what to say, so just make up a word and mutter, “holy schmoley!”

And when you want to refer to the third person of our thrice holy God? Well, just use the same terminology and call Him the Holy Spirit.

Maybe you are sensitive to the word holy, so when you are surprised you let people know by saying, “Oh my goodness!” That’s way better than actual blasphemy or cursing or especially that eff word the heathen use, right? Ah, but goodness is one of God’s attributes, and the concept of goodness is synonymous with who God is, so when we say “oh my goodness” are we really just saying the dreaded and deftly avoided “Oh my God” anyway? What about “oh my word?” are we saying something new or different when we replace God’s name with “word?” Ponder that…

Please, bear with me! My goal isn’t some sort of legalistic “here are the words that are OK and here are the words that are not” post. But I want you to consider a few things and let God’s Word and common sense guide you toward repentance if necessary in your life.

God is holy. Anything God sets apart is holy. NOTHING ELSE IS HOLY. When we use the word holy as an adjective before anything God hasn’t set apart, are we diminishing the concept of holiness at all? Even if it’s just a little, that’s a problem!

What about when you replace God’s name with the word “gosh,” or “goodness” or “golly?”

At some point, Christian, are you sure that you are saying something different in your heart that God sees than the careless language of the pagan? We bemoan the outward sins of a filthy culture while committing the same sins to lesser degrees often in our hearts and the privacy of our homes, our speech included!

Paul said in Ephesians 4:29:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Not only is corrupting talk forbidden, but we are obligated to ONLY have such as is good for edification come out of our mouths. It isn’t enough to avoid the dirty words; we are to express ourselves with clean talk which is meaningful or helpful or build up.

Jesus said in Matthew 12:36-37:

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

How we speak is a direct fruit of our heart. That is, your speech indicates your heart toward God. So, dear Christian, do you speak carelessly? Why do you affix the term holy before that which is not holy?

And why are we so shocked all of the time? Seriously, how often are you really so shocked that you have to say “oh my whatever?” Is it possible that we are not meditating on the greatness and majesty of God enough and the world is too easily awe-inspiring?

Christians, our words mean things, even the ones we utter without the intention of actually communicating what they mean. James warns us that taming the tongue is a vital Christian virtue, and I think that goes along with what Paul said in Ephesians and what our Lord Jesus said above.

but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. James 3:8-9

Brother or sister, part of making your calling and election sure is seeking Christ through His Word and submitting to the Holy Spirit to sanctify you that you may practice the virtue of self-control over your tongue. I submit to you that those who cannot tame the tongue reveal themselves to not truly be one of his children. If you don’t believe that, read Matthew 12, Ephesians 4 and James 3 in their full context and you will see that a contrast is being made between the children of darkness and those who tame the tongue. Extra credit if you can find self-control anywhere listed in Galatians 5.

So join me and let’s see if together we can express ourselves more like our perfect Lord to whom we desire to be conformed, who never wastes a word, nor does he fail to use the best ones when words are required.

For further reading, here is an old blog post which supports the same ideas presented herein.

Michael Coughlin is a street evangelist from Ohio. He and his wife, Erin have 5 children. You can find him on Twitter, at his blog, or on Sermon Audio.

In Case You Were Wondering

In Case You Were Wondering: Why Is it Bad for Christians to Cuss?

I’m working on a project I’ve got to get done this week (prayer appreciated!), so I’ll be re-running a few favorite articles from the archives in lieu of new content.

The In Case You Were Wondering series was the “beta version” of The Mailbag (our regular Monday feature). This article first appeared at Satisfaction Through Christ on September 30, 2015.

Christians and Cussing

Why is it bad for Christians to cuss?
Why are certain words considered “bad words”?

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. James 3:7-10

Ouch. Our mouths can really get us into trouble, can’t they? We can lie, boast, and say all kinds of hurtful things to others. And one way that God definitely did not intend for Christians to use our mouths is to use profanity or vulgar speech.

But why? What makes one string of four letters good and noble, such as “love,” “pray,” or “holy,” while another string of four letters is cause for washing out mouths with soap and more restrictive movie ratings?

It’s because of the meaning attached to the word. Human beings don’t deal with words as random assemblages of letters. Human beings deal with words in terms of meaning. And God doesn’t want the meanings that come out of our mouths to point people away from Him, but, rather, to represent Him well. We can see this in the instructions He gives us about the things we say:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

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

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

If you’re a Christian who uses foul or vulgar language, have you ever stopped to think about why you do that? What is the motivation of your heart for saying those words? Is it Christlike? Do you think Jesus would use that kind of language? When you say those words do they point people to or away from Christ? What impression does it give people of Christians, the church, and Christ when they hear you cussing? Think about the definitions of those words. When you say those words, what definition pops up in the mind of the person who hears you? Is it something good, pure, honorable, etc.?

But when you come right down to it, swearing is really not a disease to be treated, but a symptom of another disease- a heart infiltrated by worldliness. Luke 6:45 tells us:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

It’s important to remedy the outward behavior of filthy language, but that only comes from having a heart that is filled with the good treasure of Christ.

Additional Resources:

Is It a Sin to Cuss/Swear/Curse? at Got Questions

Is cursing or swearing a sin? at CARM