When dealing with a topic like this, it is important to start by mentioning that this post is not meant to condemn non-Christians for cussing and their use of bad language. I’m not calling them to live up to a similar standard of morality if they are not deeply rooted in the same Gospel I believe in.
I am not one who is easily offended when non-Christians swear around me (with the exception of using the Lord’s name in vain… that’s pretty offensive actually).
I am writing this because I have seldom seen very much content explaining a Christian’s view on cussing (aside from common knowledge that most Christians are not okay with it. But why is it wrong?) Hopefully this post will provide Christians a different perspective on cussing rather than just saying, “because it’s just wrong. Full stop.” I should also start by saying that I am not perfect in this area and this is my opinion which does not reflect the view of all Christians.
Harsh Language Where Harsh Language Is Necessary
It may surprise some people reading to know that Jesus & Paul both used some pretty harsh language. How is that justified? Is this not hypocritical? To name a few examples: (Emphasis mine)
Matthew 12:34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
Philippians 3:2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.
Philippians 3:8 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 [or dung/refuse], in order that I may gain Christ
Galatians 5:12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate [or castrate] themselves!
Certainly these sayings would have been harsh in the context in which they were said. It is quite clear that there is a time and a place for harsh language. To Jesus & Paul, much of this was done in the context against false teachers who were compromising the message of the Gospel of grace.
They weren’t using these words flippantly. They weren’t merely angry for the sake of being angry; rather, this was a righteous anger. They are trying to teach us about the severity of compromising the Gospel.
From Scripture, I would conclude that there is a time and a place for harsh words. Sometimes a harsh word can shake us up and give us a reality check about the issues at hand.
Cultural Trigger Words
Additionally, there are words which every culture finds offensive. For example, I live in the UK and there are certain words which are more offensive here than they are in Canada where I come from (and vice versa). Nevertheless, we have to recognize that certain words carry different levels of meaning depending on the culture we’re in.
At the same time, there are certain phrases which ought to be offensive to any culture in which there are Christians. For example, using the Lord’s name in vain takes a special precedence in my eyes. God gives us breath and yet some would use that same breath to curse His name? This is not merely offensive, it is ungrateful to life that we’ve been given. If people truly understood the realities of Jesus, Christ, God, Damn, and Hell I think it should come off our lips very differently. It is also against one of the 10 Commandments to use God’s name in vain.
For us as Christians, it is quite rare that we need to use these “cultural trigger words” that I am here describing. We certainly should never be saying something like “damn you,” for example, unless we really do intend to damn someone. If we know what damnation is, we ought not be wishing it upon someone; rather, we should be hoping that no one should be damned!
A Matter of Heart, Not Vocabulary
Much more could be said on the matters above, but this “Christian’s view of cussing” that I want to spend the most time on is on the idea that cussing is more of a matter of the heart than the vocabulary.
The Bible does not give us a list of words that are appropriate and inappropriate. When we substitute the F word with “fudge” or “frick,” we are still intending to cuss and our hearts are meaning to, we’re just using words that are non-cultural trigger words. We could also say a kind word in a demeaning or hurtful way (ex. “Mister Tyson Bradley in a derogatory tone). What is the intention behind the use of our words?
Some verses which helped me think through the idea that the issue of cussing is more of a matter of heart than vocabulary:
Matthew 12:34 …For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
Matthew 15:18 What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
Ephesians 4:29 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 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
When we use offensive language to be crude or hurtful towards someone, it reveals something deeper in the heart. When we use words that are seen as offensive, what is the heart behind them? Are we meaning to be harmless or harmful?
It would be wrong for me to give a list of acceptable and unacceptable words. Rather, we ought to use language that builds up rather than tears down and we must search our hearts to see if there is any filthiness embedded within that is manifesting itself in the form of “corrupting/foolish/rude/filthy/crude talk.” Instead, as Paul says, let the words of Christians be with thanksgiving.
– Tyson Bradley