“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: 21 Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:20-21
“But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;” 2 Timothy 2:16-17
“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” 1 Timothy 4:6-7
Three times St Paul tells Timothy to avoid, shun, and refuse profane discourses. What does ‘profane‘ mean?
Here are the related English definitions in Johnson’s Dictionary:
1. irreverent to sacred things;
2. secular instead of sacred;
3. polluted instead of pure;
4. unpurified by holy rites.
As a verb the word “to profane” means to violate sacredness or to put to wrong use.
Timothy was commanded to sanctify his conversation with wholesome talk on important spiritual concerns. He was not to allow himself to indulge in idle prate about worldly matters that do not concern the kingdom of God, and neither should we.
Whether it was mindless chit-chat or engrossing dramatic tales, he was to turn away from them all and steer his conversations only in the direction of important spiritual matters.
There are many people who do the very opposite. They are adept at undermining and thwarting the discussion of spiritual things by cracking jokes, interrupting with entertaining stories, turning the focus to the trivialities of life, diverting attention to some surrounding activity, pretending not to hear, or using any other method of polluting a conversation to keep it away from sacred things.
These methods actually work very well against us. They trigger our innate social response, an automatic feeling of shame at our own ‘rudeness’ and a sympathy for the other person’s discomfort. These feelings urge us to drop the ‘controversial’ topic and pick up the boring chit-chat instead in order to make the other person more at ease.
But isn’t the LORD our number one friend? Isn’t it rather rude for any human on planet earth to ignore God from his conversations? Isn’t profane talk the cause of discomfort, and not the other way around? Isn’t causing offence against God, by ignoring his concerns, more to be avoided than placating the profane?
St Paul does not describe profane babblings as benign or harmless or merely to be avoided for the sake of efficiency and time-wasting. He describes profane talk as being very pernicious: ‘their word will eat as doth a canker‘- corrupting and consuming like a destructive disease, sapping the life and fruit from the plant like a canker worm (Joel 1:4). St Paul indicates that smooth idle talk is the path-way to error, ungoliness, and infidelity.
A frontal assault against our faith is easier to recognize and stand against. Direct hostility by others stirs up our loyalty to Christ, but vain chatter invites us to set down our ‘menacing’ sword and take a friendly stroll into a ‘benign’ no-man’s lands between the front lines. That ‘neutral’ zone is a trap. Profane babblings seem harmless, but they will mercilessly censor us.
The people who deflect us with vain babbling are often misguided but well-intentioned. Therefore St Paul doesn’t say that Timothy should rebuke or attack in response to profane talk, but simply to avoid it, shun it, and thereby resist the tactic indirectly. If a person has introduced vain talk out of goodwill or genuine interest then he’ll show no irritation when the distraction is ignored and the conversation re-steered back to serious matters concerning the kingdom of God.
But if a person is strategically using babblings because they are a heretic and resentful of talking about holy things and driven by unclean spirits and their hardness of heart to using topic-changing in order to manipulate the conversation always away from God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, and righteousness – then he will persist in making derailing attempts. Refuse to talk to such a person any longer – shun talking with them. They know exactly what they are doing – and you do too. Walk away.
“Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them. 20 And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brasen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 15:19-20