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Ephesians 5:4

ESV Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
NIV Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
NASB and there must be no filthiness or foolish talk, or vulgar joking, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
CSB Obscene and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks.
NLT Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes — these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.
KJV Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

What does Ephesians 5:4 mean?

Verse 3 condemned three types of sexual immorality, extending to include all aspects of our behavior and attitude. Here, Paul addresses three kinds of inappropriate speech.

First, he prohibits "filthiness." This is mentioned immediately following a discussion of sexual immorality, so it may refer specifically to dirty jokes that include sexual references. The Greek term is aischrotēs, most literally meaning "obscenity." Such words are not only closely tied to immoral actions and attitudes, they are offensive and hurtful to others.

Second, Paul condemns "foolish talk." This Greek term is mōrologia, a combination of two more common terms: moros (stupid) and lego (speaking). This makes the meaning fairly clear. Paul's idea seems to be talk which is idiotic, absurd, or blatantly meaningless. This probably overlaps with the "filthiness" and "crude joking" also mentioned in this verse. In addition, "foolish talk" might include things like "trash talk," speaking in ignorance (Proverbs 18:13), or speaking without self-control (Proverbs 12:16; 29:20).

Third, Paul mentions to avoid "crude joking." The Greek eutrapelia is a reference to vulgar, lewd, crass, or foul-mouthed humor. God certainly allows for humor, and this verse in no sense tells believers to be stone-faced and dour. But there is no need for joking which is rude, dirty, or mean-spirited. As with the other types of speech listed, bawdy jokes have a close relationship with sins of the mind, such as lust, and should be avoided. As Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, believers are to "encourage one another and build one another up." Instead of being coarse and crude, Paul encourages an attitude of gratitude. This is the better alternative to vulgar speech.
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