Is Cussing Okay?

I see you want to know if cussing is wrong. Maybe you are reading to gain some clarification on what a swear word even is. Does the Bible tell us? Is there a list of bad words in the Bible that we should avoid? Should Christians swear at all?

 

Casey Covel

When asked if profanity holds the Christian stamp-of-approval, the obvious answer is a typical, resounding “NO!”
When asked why exactly it’s improper for a Christian to use profanity, however, people find the answer a bit more complicated. After all, there’s no “Thou shalt not curse” in the Ten Commandments, which are often our “go-to” handbook for quick, Christian guidelines.
I recently held a conversation with a friend, who claimed that cursing was an invention of man—that man chose certain words to mean certain things, and that these “things” are now agreed-upon to be “bad words.” His reasoning was that, as cursing was an invention of man and not something distinctly laid out by God as “bad” or “good,” it was acceptable for a Christian to curse within certain constraints.
I beg to differ.
At its core, cursing is a form of resentment—either of the self, of others, of an object, or of a situation. When we curse, we are showing disrespect for something—we are showing hate. Jesus claimed that the greatest of all commandments was to “love thy neighbour as thyself,” and that “There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 31)
There is a time to rebuke and a time to chastise others; however, cursing holds no uplifting merit. Cursing is a verbal means by which we inflict mental, psychological, or detrimental harm on another person. In folklore and fantasy, including RPG games, “curses” are magical attacks that maim and kill opponents; how ironic, then, that we refer to profanity as “cursing.” Given Christ’s commandment of love, it’s clear that cursing does not fit well with the image of the ideal Christian that we are called to be.
“…whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22) Many Bible scholars equate the phrase “thou fool” in this context with such modern day phrases as “go to h*ll,” and other profanities. The Bible advocates the weight of words to the point that Proverbs 18:21 claims “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” The words we say literally have the power to “bring someone to life” mentally and emotionally, or “kill them” in much the same way. Many a person has committed suicide over the cruel words of another… and just as many have been saved by the kind words of a passerby, who assured them that things would get better.
“But, Casey,” you say. “I don’t curse at people. It’s just part of the way I talk.”
Well, the Bible has a thing or two to say about that as well. Matthew 12:36 says, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” “Idle words” are those which bring no honor to God; they are foolish, wasted words spoken out of self-righteousness, apathy, indifference, or laziness.
Profanity holds strong connotations with resentment, and using such damaging words as a means to emphasize something we say is foolery at its finest. Using a curse word to fill a placeholder like “very” or “really” is like using a blowtorch to light a birthday cake. It might cast a strong image in the moment—it might shock people and mortify others, maybe even give you a bit of a powerful position within the conversation—but in the end you’re left with nothing but the uneatable ashes of a perfectly good cake.
Certain words—even those that are not explicitly curse words—are so full of hatred and suffering that Christians should think twice before using them. In the gaming world, for example, the word “rape” is a term that means “to beat your opponent to the ground with one-sided ease.” To those who have been raped and abused, however, using language such as this is both callous and apathetic.
Much profanity—particularly certain, more severe words—is tied to the name of God or to the abuse and harm of others. The infamous f-word carries sexual connotations, often tied directly to rape and other forms of sexual abuse; why, then, do we honor it so frequently as part of our vocabulary?
Likewise, God’s name is frequently taken in vain as a form of cursing, and this is expressed as a big no-no in the Ten Commandments itself: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7) Cursing is one of the number one ways that we can show disrespect for God’s name—a name so holy that certain scribes and translators cleansed their entire bodies before writing it.
Lastly, profanity is lazy. Yes, lazy. When we use profanity as a part of our everyday conversation, especially if it makes up every other word that we say, we are willingly transforming ourselves into simplistic, automatic robots with no sense of imagination. Our words lose power. Our conversation becomes predictable and boring. We fail to hold the interest of others because we substitute swearing for a proper mastery of the English language.
Cursing is a short-cut—a quick and easy, I-want-it-now sort of way for us to say exactly what’s on our mind, rather than taking the time to actually frame our thoughts and compose our opinions. Profanity is considered unprofessional in nearly all business circles, unthinkable in governmental public speaking, and even liable of getting you fired if you’re representing a larger organization out on the field.
We are Christ’s representatives on earth. Our lives are a living testimony of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. We are set apart from the world, cleansed with the precious blood of Christ. When we curse—when our mouths spew petty profanity and idle words—we mar that image. To others, we become “no different than the rest.” James 3:10 speaks against this hypocrisy: “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” When we pray with our church, but curse with our friends, we are acting the two-faced hypocrite and failing in our mission as an ambassador for Christ on earth.
Cursing is lazy. It’s offense of the name of Christ. It’s hurtful to others. It’s marring to our image as a representative of the heavenly kingdom. In extreme cases, it’s even got the power to sway life and death itself. There is no long-term benefit to cursing. Perhaps, in the few seconds that the words leave your mouth, you do feel better, cooler, more accepted, more normal. But we aren’t called to be normal. The Bible says we are “more than conquerors,” not mere conquerors (Romans 8:37); we are called to be downright radical.
I leave you with this verse from Colossians:
“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.” – Colossians 3:8

Marine

Silas Green

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesian 4:29
Should a follower of Jesus cuss? Well, the Bible does have a lot to say about how we’re supposed to speak. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Prov. 18:21). Words have tremendous power. They can build up and they can tear down. But do four-letter words always fall on the “death” side of what the tongue can do, or can a person cuss in an edifying way?
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” – Romans 12:14
The kind of “curse” used here is not the same as what we usually call “cursing.” It is the opposite of a blessing, a word spoken against a person. It’s not the same as using swear words. Calling upon God to “damn” things would fall into this category. Cursing in the Biblical sense is certainly something a Christian shouldn’t do.
“But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne…” – Matthew 5:34
The “swearing” in this verse is talking about swearing an oath. In fact most modern translations don’t use the word “swear” here. It’s an appeal to some higher authority while you’re making a vow, something the Bible says not to do, because your word should be good enough, and apparently people in Jesus’ day were being pretty casual about invoking the authority of Heaven.
But that’s not the same as cussing.
There are no specific Scriptures forbidding the use of swear words. The Bible has a lot to say about speaking in a way that builds up others instead of hurting them, but it doesn’t ever expressly forbid cussing. Swear words are slang,  usually avoided in polite society, but they are not sinful of themselves.
“‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” – 1 Corinthians 10:23
Is it okay for a Christian to use these words? Yes, I believe so. Depending on how you use them.
The example I usually give is this: I’ve seen gamers sitting around playing Super Smash Bros. and swearing at each other in perfect innocence, not hurting one another at all. And I’ve seen people say, “I’ll pray for you,” in a way that carried more venom than any four letter word.
I know a lot of Christians believe that “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths” refers specifically to swearing, but the Bible itself does not say so. And there are plenty of non-edifying things that could fit the verse instead: lying, backbiting, blaspheming, taking God’s name in vain, cruelties…
A lot of scholars believe that Paul himself used “strong language” when he penned this verse: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). The word translated “garbage,” “rubbish,” or sometimes “dung,” could well have been a swear word, meant to drive home Paul’s point, that everything you lose for Jesus’ sake is a worthless load of [Um… how about we translate that as something a bit less offensive].
I’m not saying Christians should swear all the time. Being polite is good. I don’t swear. Yes, even though I don’t believe it’s necessarily sinful, I still avoid it. But when it comes to how God wants you to talk, the first thing you should ask yourself is, “Is this death or life I’m about to say? Will it build up or tear down?” If you can drop a four letter word with only love and life behind it, fine. And if what you want to say is “clean” but is untrue or unkind… don’t let it past your lips.

Wesley Wood

Wesley Wood is an aspiring film director. He would love to make GOOD films to help spread God's word and help Christians grow.

7 Comments

  1. Nikko on March 25, 2015 at 3:00 am

    Excellent article with plenty of Biblical references. Thank you for this!

  2. Debra Ehrhart on March 20, 2015 at 1:55 am

    I’ll agree cussing is bad. It makes us look bad, it sounds bad, and it is in no way honoring God. My problem is even if you get rid of the curse words there’s always going to be words used to express how we feel. For example I’ll use a story I was told about: In order not to cuss a boy decided to use the word(s) peanut butter to express himself when he was upset. It worked for a while but then teachers and staff at the school got wind of it due to others also using the word. Eventually the word(s) peanut butter got banned from school deemed a bad word. So how do we decide what is right and wrong to use to express anger, frustration, hurt feelings, etc.?

    • Lawrence on March 20, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      thats very true, I Suppose just making sure the words we use don’t appear wrong to others. The kids idea is good for a Tempor solution and a starting point but when we use a substitute we generally just cover the issue of swearing and not actually resolve it. But then there is still how should we respond which is difficult to know. I believe that’s something we need to decide for ourselves and always think about as to how it looks to others and if it’s something we believe Jesus himself would say. Not everything in the bible is simply black and white there are something’s we need to ask ourselves if it’s what Jesus would do.

  3. Lawrence on March 19, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    I dont see how at anytime swearing can advance the kingdom of God sure you can say “God is f-ing awesome” but what will our swearing look like to others nomatter the context? We are called to be set apart (psalm 4:3) and not comform (Romans 12:2) to the things of this world. We are told to abstain froM even the apearance of evil (“1 Thessalonians 5:22 (kjv) Abstain from all appearance of evil”.) so whether it is wrong or not if others believe it may be then we should be avoiding it because of how it looks to others.

  4. Trevor on March 19, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    I rember my greek professor discussing swearing (and language in general) and the church. He said it wasn’t an issue of the words that were said, but how those words affected the Kingdom of God and our representation of Christ. He put it like this, “If swearing helps advance the kingdom, then swear like a sailor. The language mindset shouldn’t be “how close can I get to the ‘limit'” but rather “how is this affecting the Kingdom.” I find myself in complete agreement with his statent. In some ways, refraining from swearing can be a good wittnessing tool because others notice that you are doing something against a percieved societal norm. Yet on the other side of the coin, there are some who percieve this lack of swearing as a point of disconnect between the christian and the non-christian. I feel we (myself included) are too quick to deem a person not a “good christian” if they swear, and yet it could be those very words that enable that person to relate the gospel to those outside the church. Kendrick Lamar is a good example of this. He has a relationship with God, yet continues to swear in his music. To some, it may seem like a strong disconnect, yet I have seen people be more responsive to his honesty about his struggles with the Lord than they are to many church sermons. Ultimately, it’s about thinking of the consequences of one’s actions/words

    • Wesley Wood on March 19, 2015 at 8:31 pm

      Use Biblical proof to back up the claim that cussing at anytime is okay. As Christians we will need to explain to God why we did, what we did. He will judge us all.

      • Trevor on March 19, 2015 at 8:54 pm

        It isn’t that cussing is ok anytime, it’s asking yourself, “is what i’m saying advancing the kingdom of God, and if so in what contexts?” We must learn to tame our tongues, and within the practice of taming comes an understanding of how, when, and what to say. As mentioned above, a snarky “i’ll pray for you” can be far more damaging than an “F what others think about you. It’s what God thinks about you that’s important” now again, it all depends on context. To some the statement above may be incredibly encouraging, and to others the explicative may undermine the point. I can remember hearing of a new christian saying “God is so f-ing cool” because he was so amazed at God and the only way he knew how to express his feelings strong enough was with the explicative. Now was that man sinning by saying that? Personally, I think not.

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