Monday, February 13, 2012

The Fine Art of Cussing Someone Out

Over the weekend, I found myself in a heated discussion over whether or not it was appropriate for individuals who call themselves Christians to use swear words. The very sad fact was that some of the folks who were in the discussion call themselves believers and yet have no problem with using foul language. One of the arguments that was posed was the fact that the Bible never specifically says that a list of words is prohibited. This is true, but I believe there are several principles that should guide us in the appropriate use of language.

  1. The Bible speaks way too often about our speech and the importance of watching our tongues to think there is no danger in the words that we use. A cursory read through the book of Proverbs will make this point abundantly clear.
  2. As Christians, we are to be different from the unbelievers around us. We are not to be different in a weird, kooky way, but there should definitely be some easily discernible difference. 1 Peter 1:16 (quoting Leviticus 20:26) gives the command that there should be something unique, something holy, about us because the God we serve is holy.
  3. There is no place to have one sort of speech for this group and another sort of speech for another group. This is nothing more than hypocrisy. One of the individuals in the conversation said that it was normal practice to have one type of talk for one group and another type of talk for another. Just because something is done every day doesn't make it right. That is nothing more than pragmatism. James 3:10 says that we should not have two types of talk coming from the same mouth.
  4. If the world can understand that certain words are considered inappropriate, Christians should definitely grasp that fact. I understand that words have societal meanings where something that is offensive in our culture may not be offensive elsewhere. However, because we live in a particular culture and that culture has deemed certain words offensive, it is best for a Christian not to use them. Movies are often given the ratings that they are because of the language. Music is labeled "Explicit" because of the language that is contained in the lyrics. If unbelievers can understand that there are words that should not be used, why is it that Christians would want to use them?
  5. It is impossible to cuss to the glory of God. In both 1 Corinthians and Colossians there are admonishments to do every thing to the glory of God. Colossians 3:17 is particularly clear that every word should be to the glory of God. I don't think that an individual can drop the F-bomb and believe that it is glorifying to God.
It is likely that some of you reading this will disagree with me and I am fine with that. I have laid out what I believe to be the principles that Christians should keep in mind before using expletives. I'll leave with you one final passage from Ephesians.

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. (Ephesians 4:29)

If you are interested in a different take on this topic (I agree with some points and definitely disagree with others), you should go here.


  1. I appreciate your take on this issue, Jonathan, and I think we actually have more common ground that a cursory look suggests: my main censor is Ephesians 4:32. If my speech is not undergirded with an element of kindness, it should probably be left unsaid. That said, "corrupting talk" is often dishonest, and Christian "cussing" is blatant dishonesty, and often a needless apology for a strong emotion we can't contain. Would that we all could be more honest, kind, and better disciplined speakers.

  2. I completely agree with you that we all need to discipline our tongues more. As James says, it is a difficult thing to tame and has been the cause of more hurt that is necessary.

  3. I don't know that this topic deserves lots of time and/or energy. Here's the thing - I am hesitant to judge others, let alone make judgements about one's faith by the language they use. That is for God to judge. If I make any judgement on language use, I may make hasty judgements on education. I think it's truly the intent of language and words that God is concerned about. None of the examples from scripture refer to specific words, they really at their heart refer to intent. Some examples: Gossip is offensive to God, it's not always offensive to all people. God outlines using his name in vein as violoation of a commandment therefore if some using God D*** it, that hurts my heart more than someone hitting their thumb with a hammer and saying sh*t!!! In that case the intent is an immediate expression of physical pain - neither building up or tearing down. That's not to say that I encourage my youth to use profanity, but I don't decide they are weak in faith when the slip up. When it comes down to it- i don't feel I should judge on the outside - which language is, if I have to judge, I try to judge on the heart. Language is more a symptom of environment and upbringing. I think telling people how speak comes off as pretentious and self righteous. Until you have walked in their shoes and their life don't jump to conclusions. Finally I want to spend more time sharing a message of Grace, love, mercy, forgiveness and love than analyzing every word spoken in the process. Again it's about intent - what are the words of the heart and not the lips.