“But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by they words, thou shalt be condemned.”
— Matthew 12:36-37
My primary field of study for nearly 30 years has been communication. One of the things that bothers me as a communication specialist is how casually we take the act of communicating with others. One of the things I tell my students is “Communication is not harmless. It is powerful, and as such has power for both good and evil.”
Unfortunately, many Christians haven’t appreciated the power of “idle words” either. The Bible speaks specifically of the power of speech. James speaks eloquently of the difficulty in – and necessity of – controlling the tongue. In this article we will look at three specific sins of the tongue which are easily overlooked.
The first is mwrologia (morologia). This literally means foolish words. It is found listed with fornication and covetousness as things which should not be found among the saints. (Ephesians 5.4). What is implied by this are words which are “imprudent, without foresight or wisdom.”
Have you ever heard someone say, “I really didn’t mean to say those things. I just got so mad, and they just jumped out of my mouth.” That is morologia. I remember seeing a sign once that said, “Put your brain in gear before you put your mouth in motion.” That’s not only good advice — it’s good theology. God expects us to think before we speak. Our words have power to build up others or to tear them down. Speaking without thinking is like driving a car blindfolded. You might be able to do it, but the results would be catastrophic. We are not given the option of speaking first and thinking later. We are expected to always think before we speak.
The second word is aiscrologia (aisochrologia). This word means literally base or disgraceful speaking. As it is used in Colossians 3.8 it means foul, obscene or vulgar language. I am often amazed and even shocked at how many Christians are comfortable using profane and vulgar language. When I was growing up (I must be getting old to start a sentence like that), I would have been in deep trouble with my mother if I had even used the cleaned up versions of curse words. However, I hear these words and their originals used even by Christians. God plainly wants us to come out from among the world and be different in this aspect of our speech as well.
The third word is eutrapelia (eutrapelia). This word literally means “versatility in conversation, witty, sharp.” But this belies its seriousness. Found in Ephesians 5.4, this word implies a type of destructive sarcasm concealed in biting humor. It also has a larger implication of one who uses language skillfully and deceitfully to harm another. This mean-spirited jesting, done at the expense of another’s reputation, is also considered the equivalent of fornication by Paul.
I remember another little poem that went, “Be careful of the words you say, keep them short and sweet. You never know from day to day which ones you’ll have to eat.” We may escape that forced feeding here on earth, but I guarantee you at the judgment you’ll find your plate piled high. I want my plate full of sweetness. Don’t you?