'Every careless word'

Tim Krahn  ·  Nov 29, 2017

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak …” Matthew 12:36

What are careless words? Many thoughts may come to mind, but I want to focus on one facet of careless words that concerns me. We can all agree that profanity and vulgar language are careless words, but many euphemisms and expressions that we use may also be careless words.

I have in recent years increasingly observed what I would call careless words coming from the mouths of professing Christians, even from the pulpit. I am referring to certain words that we commonly use to express ourselves without a thought as to their meaning or their origin—euphemisms. 

These words are meant to replace foul language in a less offensive way and have become more and more accepted and used by Christians. Why?

For example, what is behind the popular expression “Oh my God!”? We hear it everywhere from people who do not profess to be Christians. To them, it’s just a normal reaction. They are not actually addressing their god, whatever or whomever that may be. But I have heard it used recently by more than one preacher, not in addressing God, which would be proper, but as an exclamation. Of course, the cleaned-up version is “Oh my gosh!” And for texting and social media, it is shortened to OMG.

By making “Oh my God!” one of the most common expressions used, has Satan deceived us to the point that we think it’s all right to use God’s name lightly? People may say, “It’s just an expression. It doesn’t mean anything.” Could it be that that’s exactly what “the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9b) wants people to think?

How does God want His people to use His name? The third of The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:7) says “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). It is quite clear that the name of God is holy and should never be used casually.

In the Psalms, David gives us examples of how to use God’s name. In Psalm 38:21, he cries for help, “O my God, be not far from me!” In Psalm 104:1, David worships, “O LORD my God, You are very great!” Satan doesn’t want anyone to be that close to God. He has purposefully trashed the meaning of “O my God!” with irreverent usage, because he hates God. These words do have meaning. Let’s not use them carelessly.

It is common knowledge, substantiated by the dictionary (dictionary.com, Merriam Webster, Oxford Dictionaries), that gosh, golly, gee, darn, dang, and heck are euphemisms for God, Jesus, damn, and hell. Why are we using these words, as Christians? Shouldn’t we be concerned about their origin, meaning, and usage? “Beloved, do not imitate evil” (3 John 1:11a).

And what about “Oh my goodness!”? Think about it. Jesus said in Mark 10:18, “No one is good except God alone.” Why do we respond to situations with this substitute and others like it? Has a subtle carelessness crept into our hearts?

I could go on about other euphemisms and expressions—careless words, but I am raising questions based on my convictions, not mandating behavior. We all need to let God speak to us personally. We ought to ask God what He thinks about us using these words. First Thessalonians 2:4b “… we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” If we truly love God, we should be willing to let God test our hearts, to clean up our language to please Him, and to “… set the believers an example in speech …” (1 Timothy 4:12b).

Our prayer should be “Let the words of my mouth … be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

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