David Burchett Christian Blog and Commentary

What Bad Words Would Jesus Say?

I was amused to open my browser to find this headline at Yahoo News.

Swearing at work boosts ‘team spirit, morale’

Wouldn’t it be interesting to be at that pep rally?

“Yea *&^%$#@ Team! Bleep, Bleep, Bleep!” Whooeeeee!!! (Jump in air…extend arms) Bleep!

The story outlined the blankety-blank study.

Regular swearing at work can help boost team spirit among staff, allowing them to express better their feelings as well as develop social relationships, according to a study by researchers. Yehuda Baruch, a professor of management at the University of East Anglia, and graduate Stuart Jenkins studied the use of profanity in the workplace and assessed its implications for managers.

They assessed that swearing would become more common as traditional taboos are broken down, but the key appeared to be knowing when such language was appropriate and when to turn to blind eye.

The pair said swearing in front of senior staff or customers should be seriously discouraged or banned, but in other circumstances it helped foster solidarity among employees and express frustration, stress or other feelings.

I live in a profane, obscenity laced profession. In my regular job of sports television production the “f”- bombs fly in a way that would constitute “shock and awe” for most Christians. I do not use any of the seven words that formerly were never said on TV. My reason is largely unrelated to my faith although I am always reminded of Paul’s incredibly annoying challenge in Ephesians.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4)

But on a professional level I think that language is an issue of civility and intelligence. Using words that are offensive to some demonstrates bad manners and a worse vocabulary. I dislike “second hand cursing” as much as second hand smoke. You know what I am talking about.

You are stuck in public with really loud cell phone guy who is “boosting the office team spirit” with a very loud and profanity laced tirade. I am not interested in his “team building” and I don’t want to hear his five word vocabulary. Or you find yourself seated by “we really know sports guys” as they do a blue play by play for the entire game. When obscenity becomes a habit it is hard to limit such words to “appropriate” times. That is one big reason that I stopped. Years ago I dropped a mild obscenity at work and turned around to see a wide-eyed six year old that had come into the production truck without my knowledge. I decided then to clean up my vocabulary.

Some say that any words other than taking the Lord’s name in vain are merely words. There is some truth to that. Jesus made it clear that what is in our heart is really the issue. So if you have profanity in your heart you might as well let’er rip. Right? Paul again moves from meditation to meddling with some more words to the church at Ephesus.

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5)

Ouch! I’ll bet the Ephesians were looking for some steel-toed sandals and hoping the next letter from Paul would be delayed in transit. But that makes it pretty clear for a Christian. Words do matter. And I need to get better at this. Perhaps the biggest issue is how do Christians, who clearly are called to a higher standard, react to an increasingly coarse culture?

I think Jesus (surprise) sets the example. Jesus was an oft invited guest at weddings and banquets to the point where those appearances drew the ire of the Pharisees. Think about it. If Jesus was a holier than thou, uptight religious, suck the air out of the room sourpuss would you want Him at your wedding party? A deadly serious, stuffy theologian type would likely not be an "A" list party invitee either. Jesus must have been able to laugh and enjoy the common fellowship of others and he was obviously welcome and desired at the festivities. Let's join Luke at Levi's dinner party that included some unsavory people and see what happens.

Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. "What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and 'sinners'?" Jesus heard about it and spoke up, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I'm here inviting outsiders, not insiders-an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out." They asked him, "John's disciples are well-known for keeping fasts and saying prayers. Also the Pharisees. But you seem to spend most of your time at parties. Why?" Jesus said, "When you're celebrating a wedding, you don't skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but this isn't the time. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. Luke 5:29-34 (MsgB) 
I am not trying to be flippant (this time) but clearly Jesus knew how to party in the good sense of the word. He knew how to interact warmly with others and connect with those around Him. And He knew where to find those who needed the touch of forgiveness the most.
I also think about the eclectic group of followers that Jesus assembled. They were a fascinating blend of common laborers and professional types. Imagine today if Christ went to the local pier to recruit some fishermen, dropped by the IRS to pick up a follower, then over to the medical clinic and so on. This would be (at least initially) a fairly coarse group. I don't suspect that the earthy sense of humor possessed by such men was immediately dispatched when they dropped their nets to follow Jesus. Part of any healthy and dynamic group relationship is having fun together. I believe that there were times when Jesus and the twelve told jokes, fish stories and made fun of the Pharisees. I think that Jesus understood that the language and topics of those outside the faith may be a bit uncomfortable. John Wesley once walked through the London market with a young man who desired to join the ministry. The coarse language offended the young man and he clearly wanted to leave. But Wesley told him to, "Stay, and learn to preach."

For my fellow followers of Jesus I suggest the following. Set a higher standard but don’t be self-righteous about it. Never be surprised when sinners sin. Pray for the heart of those who offend you with bad language. That is the source of the problem, not the words themselves. Concentrate instead on the “g” word.


To paraphrase John Wesley. Stay, and learn to love them like Jesus.

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.

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