Culture Throwback

Is Jesus Really That Concerned with Cussing?

What the Bible actually says about cussing.

Since starting this site we have gone back and forth on whether or not to cuss in our articles. On several occasions we have edited out an explicit word the day before we post. There’s a tension because sometimes the emphasis a cuss word brings can help drive our point home. But it can also distract and leave some readers hung up on our word choice and miss the point entirely. So for now we’ve held off. But that brings up an important question: Is it okay for a Christian to cuss? And should we cuss?

By now you probably can see where I land in this argument. Inevitably my bias will show through. But as in all things it doesn’t matter what I say, or anyone for that matter, it matters what God says. You can make other arguments such as it’s not intelligent, it’s lazy, it’s unnecessary… But I’m not really interested in those. They have their place, but not here. I’m interested in what God says. So let’s look at what he has to say.

For this article we will not be addressing taking the Lord’s name in vain, for that you can read this: WHAT IT REALLY MEANS TO TAKE THE LORD’S NAME IN VAIN

Is It a Sin to Cuss? 

First let’s read some of the most popular verses that are used. There are plenty more verses, however the below 4 give us a good idea of what the Bible says. If you want a complete list go here: What the Bible says about profanity

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

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Colossians 3:8

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:6-8

Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Proverbs 4:24

The above scripture indicates that it is a sin to use our words to tear people down. However it doesn’t talk about harsh language as we would define it today. I think it’s clear that any language used to belittle, demean, or attack someone is a sin. But what about cussing when we stub our toe or using a strong word to better express what we are feeling? The Bible doesn’t give us a direct answer.

For that let’s look at some of the language the Bible uses. You can find some pretty harsh language in the Bible. If someone were to say some of these things in the church many would get offended. Paul in Philippians 3:8 says that the things he left to follow Jesus he now considers “rubbish” or “garbage.” A better translation would be closer to s***. Have you read Ezekiel? He talks freely about prostitutes, penises, and all sorts of bodily fluids when describing Israel the wayward whore. And let’s not forget about Song of Solomon. Our Bibles today have the PG-13 version, but in the original text it’s closer to NC-17. We’ve put a heavy dose of political correctness on the Bible.

The Bible doesn’t seem to shy away from harsh language. God’s not afraid to pick the words that best fit.

You would be hard pressed to make a scriptural argument against simply using a curse word. The word itself isn’t the problem; it’s how it’s used that makes it good or bad.

Here’s the bottom line. Words are not the issue. They are simply that, words. Each word has a proper place and a time that they can be used. Any words used to tear someone down is wrong. But just because we’ve placed certain words on the “do not say list” doesn’t make them a sin. It’s how, when, and where we use them that dictates whether they are good or bad.

This leads us to the next question:

Should Christians Cuss?

To answer this question we each need to ask ourselves a question.

Would Using {Fill in the Blank Word} Help or Distract? 

If I’m in conversation with someone that finds cussing offensive it distracts from my point to use any harsh language. So while it be okay, not a sin, I must choose to not use them if I want to make an impact. Now if I’m talking with someone that isn’t a Christian using harsher language might actually gain me influence in the conversation.

Life is not all black and white. The Bible doesn’t portray it that way either; there’s a whole lot of gray. This question will help us sort out what the wisest thing for us to do is.

I’m not proposing that we all go around and start cussing like sailors every chance we get. There are some that are convicted that cussing is a sin, and they should be able to live out that conviction. There are others, like me, that are convinced the Bible isn’t as strict on the words we use but rather the way we use them. This is a grey area that doesn’t have a cut and dry answer, and we need to have grace with those that fall on the opposing side of the view we hold.

Is cussing a sin? When used in its proper context, no. But when we use any words to tear someone down or bring harsh language into the wrong context it crosses that line. The Bible warns us clearly of that. But the Bible isn’t scared to use harsh, sexual, and even crude language in the right context.

Should we cuss? That’s a question each of us needs to prayerfully consider. If we answer yes then we need to identify when and where it is appropriate. In Romans 14:21 Paul says this:  It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. Paul is talking about food here, but I think the same base principle would serve us well. Let us not do anything that might cause division or a brother to stumble. There are much bigger issues we are facing, let’s stop be ing the Moral Police and let’s show each other grace in this area.

22 comments on “Is Jesus Really That Concerned with Cussing?

  1. I’ve noticed that some of the prophets use explicit language. In fact, the book of Ezekiel was not permitted to be read by youths (in the Jewish community), because it both uses curse words and sexually explicit language in various places. Ultimately, I think the argument comes down to this for me: What is the point of a curse word? For myself, I land somewhere around that cussing should solely be employed when the conversation warrants it. For Ezekiel to say something so explicit as describing the sexual organs of the surrounding nations, and the incredible ejaculations of those sexual organs, I must assume that the context of that passage demands such a graphic picture. And it does. Without making such a vivid statement, we’re left with simply the statement that Israel has went off to other nations instead of to God, so God will send judgment (which is what most English versions do). The emphatic heart wrenching story of Ezekiel 16 is almost neutered (forgive the pun) when we don’t allow the text to use the extreme language that was already there. And, to get back to the point, if the prophets of old did it, then why is it so taboo for Christians today?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you are right, I too look at each situation to see if harsh language is warranted. Most of the time it is not, but there are a few times where I think it is beneficial. I have found in some dark seasons of life in my prayers harsh language makes it in. Not directed at God, but used to describe how I feel about my situation. I’ve found that to be very helpful in my prayers and giving my heart to God.

      Also I’ve always been kind of fascinated with Ezekiel and the harsh language used. It’s actually rather shocking when you realize that the graphic disgusting picture is how God views Israel’s sins and how close we look at that today. I was a Student Pastor for several years I used to have students read Ezekiel 23:20. They couldn’t believe that kind of language was in the Bible and they’d ask why God would say that and we would get to have a good conversation how God views our sin.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I raised my sons with this thought (which I believe)… Swearing shows a lack of self control, we have enough other words in our vocabulary to use to emphasis how we are feeling (or) what we want to say.

    I bypass almost every posted article where gratuitous language is thrown in.

    . . . that said – there are times I slip. I am human. God still loves me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Laurie! I’m certainly not advocating that we go around cussing. I agree in most circumstances there are plenty of words we can use that communicate the same point. However that doesn’t make it a sin. Maybe not the wisest thing to do, but harsh language isn’t a sin. In the right context the Bible uses EXTREME language that would make most people blush. We should always be in control of our language and when/how we use it. But it’s certainly not a sin to use it in the right context.

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  3. Let no unwholesome speech come out of your mouths but only that which is useful for edifying or building up the body, Eph 4:29. That’s why we don’t curse or tell dirty (sexual innuendo), or even mother-in-law jokes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, tearing people down and telling dirty jokes is unwholesome talk. But the Bible uses some pretty harsh language and compares our actions to explicit sexual behavior.

      We’ve tamed the Bible down. But I don’t think, that in the right context, harsh language is a sin. You’re not going to hear me going around cussing all the time. But in the right context, with the right people, sometimes harsh language is the only way to convey what I am saying.

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  4. I’ve never really found a need or good reason to use a bad word, even when I’m around others who do. So in that sense, I’ve gotten used to not using then so it’s now more natural for my not to.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. autisticaplanet

    I try to not do it casually, but when I am startled by something, I usually will cuss just to keep from having a meltdown. I am autistic. Meltdowns are not good. I also have used cussing in memes shared privately as I know the power of words to convey thought is important. I like what Laurie said above. That is how I was raised, and God still loves me when I mess up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know how accurate this is. But I watched a Mythbusters once where they tested to see if cussing increased your pain tolerance. It did significantly, cussing allowed people to endure much more then those that didn’t. I don’t think the cuss words were the magic I think it was releasing what they were holding back. There’s power in letting out stuff instead of holding it in.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have wondered a lot lately about what the Christian culture I’ve been raised in says is right and how it lines up with the Bible. This topic and moderately consuming alcohol were two things I was wondering about! What is your view on alcohol consumption as a christian? (A true follower of Christ) is having a glass of wine at dinner okay? Or having a different kind of drink occasionally? Drunkeness is the sin not necessarily having a drink, right? I have looked in scripture and cannot find a difinitive answer. Thank you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Claire! I’ve written on drinking in the past. I will give you a quick answer here, and below I have a link to an article I wrote in more detail what the Bible says.

      In short is drinking a sin? No, not within moderation. No where does the Bible explicitly prohibit it. However although it might be allowed, it’s not always the wisest thing to do. It might cause you to lose influence over someone in your life. So you have to ask yourself, I’m allowed to do this, but in this current circumstance is this the wisest thing for me to do.

      BTW I do enjoy an occasional drink. But I am very cautious on when/where.

      Here’s the article: https://rethinknow.org/2016/07/18/what-does-the-bible-really-say-about-smoking-drinking-and-getting-tattoos/

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jeffery,

    As Christians we should set ourselves a part so the world can tell we are different. I don’t tear someone down if I hear them speak bad language. In fact I try to ignore it, and accept them for how they are, and show them thru my conversation that I can express myself without using language that could be offensive. Which is more likely to offend? Someone saying “Look at that snake!” or saying ‘Look at that “F”ing snake!” Both create fear, anxiousness, and concern of being hurt by the snake, but one does not offend. Both are alarming as it should be, but one has a word that is useless to the sentence. With that word in the sentence it becomes offensive to me. The bible says “the tongue is sharper than the sword” I agree. I would suggest that the probability of a Christian using bad language and offending someone is extremely high, therefore why do it to begin with. Have I slipped in the past, the answer is yes. I consider it as more of a agitated utterance when I bump my head, or drop a brick on my toe. We also need to think about those that know you are a Christian and how they will think of you after you curse. Especially if the person is not a Christian, they may entertain the thought of a cursing Christian as being a hypocrite. I have always used the following statement to measure myself and actions. ” Would my GrandMother be Proud seeing my actions/words/opinion(You can fill in the blank) on the front page of the national news?” I cannot think of a single time my kids, wife, family, Church membership, etc…. would be proud of me using profane language. Using profane language is usually for those that do not put a lot of thought into what they say, and in most cases regret saying it later. Refraining from profane language shows a thoughtful, mature, cerebral person that considers other peoples feelings before their own.

    Love you man! Love your writing. Very thought provoking and interesting. Wish I had the writing talent you. Peace

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    • Hi Chris!

      I certainly don’t think that we should start cussing anytime we can fit a word in. Most of the time there is a better word that will fit and not offend anyone. However sometimes, around the right people, in the right context, harsh language conveys something normal words miss. Now I rarely cuss. I normally use a filter like you described and ask would it be wise for me to say this? If I say this will I lose influence over someone? Most of the time there is a better word. That’s a good filter you had of it our words make nation news would we be proud? Something to think about…

      I would push back a little on “Christians are to be set apart.” I 110% agree with that, I just think that means something different. When Paul was speaking to different cultures he used language that was familiar to them, which was occasional harsh. I think sometimes today we try to speak up to the world instead of putting God’s truth into words that our culture will understand. The New Testament was written in the basic Greek language of the day, nothing fancy, stuff an average person like me could understand. I think the way we look different is how we love one another and love God. We are different because we go out of our way to love our neighbor more then we love ourselves. We abstain from sin to honor God instead of indulging in everything. That sets us apart. It’s more of our actions and less of our words. Although our words are still important.

      Thanks for your thoughts! I appreciate you taking the time to read and respond!

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      • I do believe the call to be holy (aka “set apart”) is all-encompassing. Sure, it starts with our affections, but it can, should, and does manifest in our actions – both word and deed. I believe that to be the point. What most consistently and effectively communicates Christ’s infinite worth? What best puts His beauty on display? Using four letter words or abstaining from the use of four letter words? The “harsh” language that you refer to is an interesting, albeit ambiguous point…the example you use from Philippians doesn’t really translate as “sh*t” does it? It’s simply “refuse” or “dung”…I don’t think Paul’s point there is to shock, but rather communicate to the Philippians how worthy Jesus is. I think to focus on that word is to miss the point entirely. EVERYTHING at the expense of having Jesus is a complete and utter loss (even cussing). Paul basically says elsewhere that if he had to give up cussing just so that some might be saved, he would. Even then, when was the last time you used that word in that context exactly? Furthermore, how often are the instances that biblical authors use what would be the equivalent of “f*ck” or…what other cuss words are there that are “morally neutral”? Obviously profane words regarding both male and female anatomy are never appropriate….”hell” and “damn” deal with real, eternally significant things, so should never be used out of context, let alone flippantly. What other words are there?

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      • Also words are very important, “Out of the mouth the heart speaks.” What we say reveals the content of our hearts. What’s in there? When we get bumped, what comes out? Gentle words of grace and edification, or…? “We abstain from sin to honor God instead of indulging in everything. That sets us apart.” Can we not also abstain from cussing and that honor God? Isn’t cussing also “indulging”? What did Peter say the world would think us strange for? Oh yeah, not jumping into the same flood of dissipation as them (1 Peter 1:1-4). Furthermore, Paul was all about giving up his rights for the sake of advancing God’s kingdom and serving others…so can’t it be said, even if cussing is a right we have, we’d be better off giving it up? What would it really cost us anyway? Seriously, what’s the cost of not cussing?

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      • Hi Alexis!

        I think we might interpret what “set apart” means. I’ve studied it for awhile and I’m convinced it means something slightly different than you do. But I have been wrong before and I will most certainly be wrong again!

        The Bible uses harsh, crude, and sexually explicit language over and over. I do believe that is intentional. I think Paul choose harsh word on purpose, which was a common vulgar word. And Isaiah choose “filthy rags” which means “rags of menstruation”, gross and harsh. Jesus describes the Canaanites as “dogs”, a derogatory saying. Ezekiel describes Israel’s actions as a prostitute lusting after her lovers genitals the size of donkeys. That’s not mentioning Song of Solomon that describes in explicit detail sex, which we have largely edited out and toned down. You can make a strong case that some of the words David used in the songs were harsh to describe his situation as well.

        All that to say the words aren’t the issue, it’s the context and the heart they are used in that makes it good or bad. For example I can have a extremely sexually explicit conversation with my wife or maybe a counselor or doctor and not be a sin. In fact that would probably be beneficial and good. Now if were to write that a future article that wouldn’t be good, in fact it would be disrespectful and a sin.

        Sometimes in my prayers I have no other way to describe my situation other then to use harsh language. Sure there are other words that “mean the same thing” but they don’t care the same weight. When I use that harsher language it helps me give what is on my heart to God.

        Again I’m not saying we should all cuss. But we should set up rules that aren’t in the Bible. I keep my language under control. But in the right context, with the right people, I have found it to be helpful and beneficial. I certainly don’t think people have to, if someone is convicted they shouldn’t then they shouldn’t! When in doubt I keep my language clean. But I just don’t see it as a sin, maybe not always a wise thing to do, but not a sin.

        Thanks for commenting! I like talking with people with differing views, I think that helps me see a different side. Glad you stopped by and commented! I am enjoying the conversation!

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  8. Ha…but I mean why even do it? I’ll admit that I didn’t read the whole thing…and maybe I will, eventually. But I’ve seen this argument time and time again. My response: Why bother when it can be avoided? At least two thoughts and then I’ll post three links. My two thoughts are simply statements from Paul. It seems to me like you’re in line with the Corinthians in quoting the authors and thinkers of their day – “Everything is permissible.” But how does Paul respond to that. He says yeah, everything might be permissible…but not everything is beneficial. I really believe it’d be helpful just to read 1 Corinthians in its entirety. But for now, at least read chapter 6 and chapter 8. Secondly, I want to point out the argument for the weaker brother – the use of your own freedom, that you have convictions about and have become convinced of in your own mind, should not come at the expense of others. You have a responsibility to not cause your brothers to stumble. Paul says elsewhere we have the power to “destroy” the faith of some. Is that something we even want to risk, even if it is “just” a four letter word? Sorry, I lied. My third point is this – our aim should be twofold: holiness and love for Jesus (which are closely tied as it is). What sets us apart from the watching world and what stimulates us and others to love Jesus more? Sometimes it’s not even about what’s right or wrong, but rather what stimulates our knowledge of God, others’ knowledge of God, and our collective affection for Christ? Ok, now the links because I’ve done enough typing. 1) http://youtu.be/fKY5vRFu5j0 2) http://youtu.be/Uya9IXpwy4I 3) https://youtu.be/48CZ5F9bnJM …I lied again, 4) http://www.thevillagechurch.net/the-village-blog/inspirations/ Kthanksbye.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All your points are spot on! That’s where I ended the article. While I believe that cuss words are not a sin, it’s how you use them that determines if they are a sin, that doesn’t mean we should go around cussing. That was the point I ended the article with. I even bring a little Paul in there with the argument you mentioned.

      The reason I think it’s important that we talk about this is because I see many Christians claiming that unwise things are sins. And that’s not always true. And when we start saying things are sins that aren’t we are in danger of becoming like the Pharisees who hung onto their own law and not onto God. I will be checking out the links you posted!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  9. I can agree with using some harsh language in describing sin. Using it in other ways is usually cutting down and not showing God’s love, compassion or mercy. It is rare that I have heard cursing being used in a way that is still God honoring. Thanks for sharing. It does make one really think about the reasons for not cursing.

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  10. Jeffery, how do you reconcile Romans 14:23 with what you posted here?
    Rom 14:23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

    What I would say, based on scripture, is after the cross it is not sin which separates us from God. So much is taught in the church about getting ones life right and then approaching God when the truth of the Gospel is that the free gift of salvation to those who call on the name of Jesus are made right in the eyes of God despite their behavior. I am not sure why so many are blind to this simple truth. Confession and repentance are not for the church. And if you believe confession and repentance are for the church then you cannot reconcile Colossians 2:9-10 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him (Jesus), who is the head of all principality and power.

    Therefore, Jesus is my faith, my holiness, my righteousness, my strength, my forgiveness, my justification, my obedience, my perfect thoughts, my health, my anything else you want to put in this statement and I am complete in him – my own works do not complete me. Which leads me to this statement – if I cuss, even though it is sin, the blood of Jesus continuously washes me clean. The second and blessed part of being a believer is that the Holy Spirit, through the goodness of God works in me to transform me into a new creation – as a new creation I no longer need to live the way the old me use to live or to cuss. Things change inside me – but if I make a mistake or give in to my flesh the good news is that God is not counting that (imputing) against me. So the title, “Is Jesus really that concerned with cussing?”
    is answered with a resounding not only no but because of the lawful and holy just promise of God – He doesnt even remember it. When a person calls on the name of Jesus and that person is saved and is justified by God as righteous that means the person is now blameless before God. Now the believer is placed into the body of Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit can dwell in them because their body is now pure enough (because of Jesus) for the Holy Spirit to dwell in the body temple. All the verses that you quoted from Paul are meant to be fruits of the relationship with God, not actions or prerequisites for Christian life or work. James is speaking to the Jews who were still under the requirement of a national repentance and proverbs is old testament teaching and definitely for the Jew only.

    Kind regards,
    J Arnn
    Jewish Studies for Christians

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