Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not big on a religion of rules. There are standards which let us know what righteousness looks like, and when we’re falling short of it, and for that matter what does or does not constitute sin. Yes, there are some absolutes, that, when we violate them, it is sin. It’s why we need a savior. And, a savior is why Christianity is not a religion of rules, but a relationship of life, empowerment, and victory.
Ephesians 5:4 is a great example of this. “And there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” The first part reflects a standard that is worth attaining. But, what do these terms even mean? Let’s take a look, but I’ll keep examples to a minimum. Giving examples would make this look like a list of rules, and result in our missing the real message.
- No filthiness – the Greek word means “deformity or ugliness, obscenity.” We do at times deform words. We say things that sound close to an curse word or obscene word, but are more socially acceptable. For example OMG. Some say “Oh my God.” Others say “Oh my gosh.” Gosh is just a deformed form of “God.” I am not saying that saying golly, gee (Jesus), gosh, etc., is a sin. It’s just an example of deforming our words to say one thing when we mean another. As for ugly or obscene – there are plenty of examples in common usage.
- Silly talk – foolish talk; here the Greek word literally means “moronic words.” I don’t believe this means we should never have fun. I kind of think it has to do with saying things as though they are true, when in reality, we don’t know the truth—speaking confidently out of ignorance.
- Coarse jesting – The root word for jesting carries the idea of turning or changing. It’s the turn of a phrase that can bring a chuckle or get a point across in a unique or even humorous way. It can be an effective means of communicating, and isn’t necessarily bad. However, it’s also the insult that is clothed in politeness. It’s the lewd or rude comment that is phrased in such a way as to seem innocent. You may not say something crude or vulgar, but you say what you want in a way that puts that image in the mind of your hearer. You effectively communicate something coarse or inappropriate without coming right out and saying it.
Again, the point here is not to make a list of New Testament “thou shalt nots.” Just to make it clear—here is the real message I want to get across:
“But rather giving of thanks.” Replacing these things with thankfulness will change us from within. It will make God our focus and bringing honor to Him our goal. At the same time, it will keep us from falling into inappropriate and even sinful behavior.
You can find a more complete presentation of this on pages 136-137 in Extreme Gratitude.