Q: When someone uses foul language, such as on a job situation, is it better to ignore it or should something be said?
A: We Christians face many hard decisions as we live in the world but desperately seek to show that we are not of the world. One of these is: When to say something that would be. constructive, and when to refrain from saying anything, in the hope that silence speaks a more powerful sermon than words. We, who know that the blood of Christ has cleansed us from all sin, do not wish to let the world malign his name, and certainly, we will want to do all that we can to keep ourselves from participating in such skulduggery. Paul’s words to the Ephesians also apply to all of us: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity. . . . Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving” (Eph. 5:3, 4).
It is easier, of course, to respond with a word of correction, when the foul language is used in a more private setting – such as, in our own homes, or in the car, or in a small group. But the difficult time to get in a word of correction is in the workplace, especially when those in charge of the business exhibit no real concern for eliminating such foulness. It is unfortunate that in certain occupations there appears to be more of a concern for cleanliness of the “shop” than cleanliness of the “chops”!
People have tried to come up with all kinds of clever responses to those who curse and swear. To the person who has just blurted out emphatically and disrespectfully “Jesus Christ,” there has been the tongue-in-cheek: “Oh, I didn’t know that you worship him, too!” But, according to the Lord, there really is only one response that is most of all appropriate: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
Are we deeply interested in the soul of the person who has just offended – not only us, but most importantly God – with his or her mouth? If so, then we will want to choose carefully the best response as we attempt to correct their language usage. Instead of a bold, on-the-spot correction that might leave the fellow worker bitter and possibly trample down any “pearls” of wisdom we have to offer spontaneously, it might be best in many a situation to have a private talk with the individual later on. In such a talk both the Law and the Gospel could be properly applied, and your sincerity in helping would seem more genuine.
But one of the most effective tools in curbing foul talk is putting a damper on our own mouths, even in times and situations when the world would expect us to let loose. A Christian employee who sets the example on the job site can have a tremendous influence on the kind of jargon that is deemed acceptable by his peers.
“Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only, for my King;
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.”
-Hymnal #400, v. 3