Klingon is an actual language. That’s right—the war-loving, spear-toting villains of the Star Trek world have an official language of their own. And people speak it. In fact, you can even get a collegiate scholarship if you are familiar with the alien language.
Similarly, there are those people out there who write letters in Elvish, a language originating in The Lord of the Rings.
More common is the dialect spoken between those people who know something about cars. Enter into their conversation and you might hear stuff about carburetors and engine blocks.
Or maybe the language of couponers who talk about BOGO and rebates, informing one another who is selling Pampers wipes at a discounted rate this week.
Stick me in any of these situations and I’d be totally lost. Completely uncomfortable. Absolutely without anything to say. But if you were integrated in the sub-culture of Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, mechanics, or thrifty shoppers, you would feel right at home.
Sub-cultures are like that. They have their own language, dress, and customs. And if you’re a part of that sub-culture you feel right at home. You, as a member, have integrated the speech, clothes, and food into your life and now you don’t even give it a second thought. You freely communicate in Klingon to those about you, not worrying too much about the unenlightened who haven’t bothered to pick up their own pronunciation guide. And sub-cultures are everywhere. Chances are you belong to at least one, even if you don’t realize it. You might be a member of the technology subculture. Or the home school subculture. Or the SEC football subculture.
Me? I’m a card-carrying member of the Christian subculture. It’s a subculture with our own rock stars, communicators, and authors. It’s filled with customs, dress, food, and especially language that are as unfamiliar as the cliffs of Mordor or the eating patterns of dwarfs to the common observer.
If a person walked into the church today, they might as well have stepped into a comic book convention, for they would likely find a group of people so entrenched into their own subculture that they don’t even think about what they’re saying, singing, or preaching any more. After all, everybody understands them; they’re seeking the same language.
Here’s the good thing about a subculture—it’s safe. It’s comfortable. It’s easy. It’s part of who you are. And inside the comfort of a subculture, you don’t really have to think a lot about what you’re saying or the meaning behind it. You just assume that everyone around you knows what it means to be “saved,” they know how to “repent,” and they know what it means to call God “holy.” So you just rattle on, firmly entrenched in the familiar.
But that’s also a reason why we, as Christians, should watch our mouths.
Now I’ve heard that command from my parents. I’ve said it to my own children. I’ve also heard it from the Apostle Paul:
“No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).
I’ve also heard it from Jesus:
“A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Luke 6:45).
Watch your mouth, Christian, because your mouth is a powerful tool for the glory of God. What’s more, your words are a clear revelation of your heart. So watch your mouth as a means of checking your own heart.
Most of the time, we think about these commands in terms of abusive or foul language, as well we should. These kind of words don’t have a place in the mouths of Christians. But I want to encourage you today to consider the command in light of the Christian sub-culture that you might be a part of.
Watching your mouth in this context doesn’t mean you don’t use the language of faith. It doesn’t mean you don’t talk about propitiation, or justification, or Martin Luther, or church councils, or whatever. It only means that as you say these things, you do so in an attitude of service to those around you. It means you don’t willy nilly throw out the biggest words you happened to have learned expecting everyone else to know what you’re talking about in your small group or Sunday school class. Instead, in an attitude of humility, you think before you speak, and you consider: Is the comment I am about to make going to help others, or is it going to make me look smarter?
That’s another way we watch our language. Christian, don’t worship at the idol of your own cleverness. Instead, consider that your speech is another way by which you can serve others well.