Once I was visiting a widowed friend with four children whose youngest was a lively, energetic son. Whether it was because the family had company and he was trying to impress us, or he was customarily a handful, I don't know. But, I couldn't stand by as he ordered his mother around and disobeyed her instructions. I recognized that I was in a position to provide "backup" for her in the way she was attempting to raise him without a father. So, I told him that I thought he should obey her without backtalk. He complied. I then brought him close to me and whispered in his ear, "And you should ask for her forgiveness." I'm not sure what he thought I had said, but he retorted boldly, "We do not use that kind of language around here!" I burst into laughter and told his mother what he said; she also found it very funny. I told him that I hadn't used a bad word, and explained what I had said.
What kind of language is acceptable and how should we instruct our children regarding their speech? It would be easier to address this if the world outside our doors mirrored the godly instruction we provide day-in and day-out. You cannot go many places where your ears and moral standards aren't challenged: a loud radio blasting profanities in a car beside you at a traffic light, groups of teens gathered in a mall, or vulgar radio announcers overheard in offices and waiting rooms. You must maintain a consistent standard in your home and teach them how to respond when they hear vulgarities when they are out of the home.
Good language does not save, but it is one of the markers indicating a regenerate soul or one in the process of being discipled to that end. We are commanded in Phil. 4:8-9,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
That means believers are to have their speech informed by hearts purified by godly thoughts, and teach such to their children as they model it for them in everyday life. Colossians 4:6 reinforces this,
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Charles Spurgeon said, "We must strive day by day to let our conversation be more in accordance with His gospel."
Children need to learn that not everyone they come into contact with will abide by the standards of God. They should be schooled in how to maintain their purity as they respond to those not walking in faith. They must never confuse being salt and light with becoming like those they wish to reach. St. Paul said he endeavored to be all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:22-23) for the purpose of winning them to Christ. Those we desire to win to the Lord will give much more credence to our profession of faith and resultant behavior than we might imagine.
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].