Today, I want to talk about something that drives me crazy. I’m not just saying that so you’ll listen closely, this is truly something that bugs the FIRE out of me. When Christians—people who have gone public with their intention to follow Jesus—talk nasty on the Internet.
There’s something about being online that makes people say things they wouldn’t say in person. Maybe it’s physical distance, maybe it’s anonymity—I’m not sure, but people get crazy when they’re behind a keyboard.
Here’s the thing—as Jesus followers, we are called to live differently. Paul, a first-century church planter, wrote this to the believers in Ephesus: “[I] beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.” This comes after three chapters of deep, rich theological content about who God is and what God has done for us. So when he says this, he means do this in light of what God has done for us already.
This line is a pivot that Paul makes from his usual theological opening to his customary application-based close. I wanted to point all of this out—that we are “to live a life worthy of [our] calling”—so I can show you that two sentences and 28 verses later that’s still under the umbrella of this verse.
Here it is: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Before we dig into this, let me ask you a simple question: Is this verse still relevant in the Internet age? Did the invention of Twitter nullify this command?
The truth is that if we are Jesus followers who are called to live a life worthy of our calling, we have to align with this verse. Ephesians 4:29 isn’t just about verbal communication—it includes all communication: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Parler, Reddit, YouTube comments, NextDoor forums—everything.
As believers, we are never to use foul or abusive language. “Why?” you may ask. I mean, is cussing, swearing, or bad language really that big of a deal? Actually it is. Spiritually speaking—there’s a direct line between our mouth and our heart. In other words, what we say reveals what’s already in our hearts. But, don’t take my word for it—here’s Jesus in His own words: “What you say flows from what is in your heart.”
So what do we do?
Stop using foul and abusive language—pretty simple. But just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. James, the half-brother of Jesus, acknowledged this: “People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.”
If we are to truly follow Jesus and live a life worthy of our calling, we must learn to control our tongues—and yes, that includes the fingers and thumbs we use to type. We can’t worship God on Sunday and trash people online on Monday. If God really is over our whole life, then we must do everything His way. No more sharing questionable videos, no more bullying people, no more passive-aggressive posts, and no more foul acronyms—God isn’t fooled by a string of letters. Let’s truly live worthy of our calling—because people can tell when we do.
There’s one more thing though. Recently, when I ran over a screw in my truck, I didn’t simply remove the ruined tire, I REPLACED it. In the same way, we don’t simply remove foul and abusive language from our lexicon—we replace it.
Let’s look at Ephesians 4:29 once more. “Don’t use foul or abusive language. (that’s the REMOVE part—here’s the REPLACE part:) Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
What if we began posting good and helpful things on Nextdoor or Twitter or Facebook? What if people stopped seeing us as a Negative Nancy or a Mean Mike and began seeing you as an encourager and someone who builds up? If enough believers did that, we might just change the world—and isn’t that what you really, truly want as a Christian?