What does Ephesians 5:4 mean?
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.
NKJV: neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Ephesians 5:1–21 continues Paul's invaluable instructions on how Christians should live out their faith. Rather than imitating the world, or being controlled by worldly things, Christians are to be filled with the Spirit. Specific flaws such as sexual immorality, crude speech, and wasting of time are discouraged. Instead, believers ought to submit to one another out of respect for Christ, providing a powerful witness to the world.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 5 begins with an admonition to imitate Christ. In order to do so, Christians must avoid sexual immorality, vulgar language, foolishness, and other inappropriate attitudes. Paul warns that those who persist in these behaviors are not part of the kingdom of God. The passage then transitions to an explanation of mutual submission, including that between husbands and wives. Wives are to submit to their husbands, and respect them. Husbands are to love their wives in a Christ-like, sacrificial, and humble way.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 5 continues the very practical second half of the book of Ephesians. Chapter 4 encouraged Christians not to live as unbelievers do, but worthy of the gift we have been given. Chapter 5 gives even more direct application of these principles. Paul details impure attitudes and habits which Christians ought to put aside. He then details the proper approach to marriage, rooted in a Christian understanding of the gospel. This style of advice will continue through chapter 6. Paul's advice will culminate in a famous analogy about applying Christian principles to all of life, using the symbolism of a suit of armor.
Book Summary:
Ephesians follows a theme common in Paul's writings: connecting theory with practice. In this book, however, he goes into greater depth before making the transition. As a letter meant to be read by more than just the believers at Ephesus, this is an important look at how Christian belief should translate into Christian action. The first three chapters lay out spiritual ideas, the last three chapters show how these truths should be applied in the life of a mature believer. Paul focuses heavily on love, the unity of the Christian church, and the incredible value of our salvation through Christ.
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