Is it okay for a Christian to cuss? January 25, 2006Posted by JP in Uncategorized.
This question is harder to answer than it initially seems. On the surface one could easily say that passages of scripture like James 1:26 and Ephesians 5:4 indicate that it is not okay for Christians to use profanity.
One could easily stop with these two verses and say ‘no, Christians should not cuss’, but truly that is only scratching at the topsoil of this topic. We have further, deeper considerations when we look at the subject, such as:
“What is profanity and who determines if something is profane?” And “What of Christian liberty?”
What is profanity?
I have been asked: If the group I hang out with uses profanity and does not think there is anything wrong with it, is it really profane?
One young man tells me that he and his buddies (Christians all, I believe) regularly cuss amongst themselves, they do not view it as profane so obviously in this context, using the ‘F’ word certainly must be okay…
One writer on the use of profanity said this:
The fact is the evidence that cussing is a sin just isn’t there. Or at least if it is, I haven’t been able to find it. So I say this with as little sarcasm as I can muster: will someone please direct me to the list of forbidden cuss words in the Bible?
To be sure, scripture does not give us a list of words which it considers profane. The venerable comedian, George Carlin however, in his own fashion, did give us such a list. In his bit about the ‘7 Words You Can Never Say On Television’, he demonstrated clearly that certain words are considered profane by society. In this day and age, that list is the most concrete example of unacceptable words which we have.
Language is a fluid and living thing, words change over time, meanings change over time. What would have been considered a cuss word in Jesus’ day, may not be in use today, or has taken on different meanings.
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 …
What is it that defines filthiness or foolish talk or crude joking? The culture we are living in, without a doubt. No matter how commonplace profanity is, it’s always pretty clear what words are profane, and what words aren’t. We all know this and intuitively understand it even if we do not have the academic training in linguistics or sociology to voice our understanding. We know instinctively what is considered profane by society and our culture. We then are faced with the example I stated above.
If my immediate culture (sub-culture) accepts certain words and their use, then they must be fine…
I can only say this: If you would not use those words when speaking to your mother or father, in church, in a job interview, or when speaking with someone you have just met, then they are clearly inappropriate for use, regardless of one’s immediate company.
It has been shared with me that some congregations (Emergent and Progressive Churches, for example) use and accept the use of profanity, and that they consider this as part of their ‘witness’, a way to reach those who may be put off by ‘religious’ people. In fact, it seems to be a more and more prevalent course in many churches today to become worldlier in order to reach the masses.
This is hogwash. Christians are not Chameleons, changing colors to blend into their immediate surroundings. We are to be lights in the world, noticed, and set apart, through our word and our actions.
Additionally, Christians need to always be aware of how their speech is going to be understood by those around them. As it is, the message of the Gospel is going to offend many – our use of language should not offend them.
One indictment of Christians that I’ve heard is that “Oh, he says he’s a Christian, but listen to him talk. Swears like a sailor… I Wonder if he talks that way in church on Sunday” or something similar. We can, and should, make our points clear without resorting to profanity. Matthew Henry said this:
Filthy words proceed from corruption in the speaker, and they corrupt the minds and manners of those who hear them: Christians should beware of all such discourse. It is the duty of Christians to seek, by the blessing of God, to bring persons to think seriously, and to encourage and warn believers by their conversation.
What of Christian Liberty?
I’m troubled by the immature view of liberty amongst Christians today. The idea of Christian liberty is becoming one of liberty as freedom from something (i.e., the Law) rather than freedom to something. The truth is: We were not freed in order that we might do as we please. We were freed so that we could finally be able to become like Christ.
Phil 2:4-5 Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others. Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Although the Law should never be replaced with an updated form of legalism, we should also not fall for its opposite error. ‘Christian Liberty’, as thought of by many today is simply a form of ‘reverse legalism’.
Legalism basically asserts that ‘the bible says you cannot do this or that and you must do this and that, in order to be righteous, or demonstrate your righteousness’. Misconstrued liberty, reverse legalism says: ‘we are saved by grace, not of works, so anything I do which is not specifically denounced by scripture is okay’.
Grace and conscience should not be used as covers with which we justify any sort of questionable behavior we don’t want to give up. When it comes to the issue of swearing we must be guided by the Word of God, our conscience, and the Spirit. But if you claim that the Holy Spirit is leading you in your “freedom” to use such language don’t be surprised when your fellow Christians respond by asking, “What the @*&# are you talking about?”
“well in the proper context, my Christian liberty affords me the position of enjoying these things”?
Have we really begun to take Scripture so lightly, that suddenly it’s okay to go right back to those things that we once did, said, or thought?
Eph 2:1-5 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to this worldly age, according to the ruler of the atmospheric domain, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and by nature we were children under wrath, as the others were also. But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved!
Look at verse 2: “in which you previously walked according to this worldly age,” What does it mean to have once walked according to this worldly age? I believe the context of this verse spells it out pretty clear when we keep reading in verse 3: “We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts”
If that’s not clear enough, let’s look at a few more verses:
Ephesians 4: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
1 Peter 4:3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries
Titus 3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
Have we really strayed so far from holy living, that it’s now okay for Christians to go right back to the former ways, and use the grace of God as our security blanket? To abuse our liberty to say, and do, whatever we feel like saying and doing, no matter who it offends? Someone once said “Christian liberty is not the freedom to do whatever we wish, it’s the power to live to please God.”
Does profane speech, please God? Let’s see:
2Ti 2:16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. (have we seen an increase?)
1Co 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (are we seeing what was once good, now corrupt?)
I believe the answer is quite clear that cussing, swearing, using vulgar speech does NOT please God in any way. It’s the communication of the world, which we are told again and again, to have no part of. And yet we desire to be “culturally relevant” and “progressive” and “connect” with the culture around us… adopt this speech, and think everything’s fine, “for the cause of the gospel”.
Modern Christianity may teach us this method is just fine, but Scripture has a higher standard. The real question in all this, would be: does the following attitude reflect the modern attitude? Or, does the the consideration of the use of profanity as acceptable align itself with the overwhelming admonitions of scripture?
1Th 2:1 FOR YOU yourselves know, brethren, that our coming among you was not useless and fruitless. But though we had already suffered and been outrageously treated at Philippi, as you know, yet in [the strength of] our God we summoned courage to proclaim to you unfalteringly the good news (the Gospel) with earnest contention and much conflict and great opposition. For our appeal [in preaching] does not [originate] from delusion or error or impure purpose or motive, nor in fraud or deceit. But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the glad tidings (the Gospel), so we speak not to please men but to please God, Who tests our hearts [expecting them to be approved].
Eph 4:29 Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it.
1Co 15:33 Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character.
1Co 15:34 Awake [from your drunken stupor and return] to sober sense and your right minds, and sin no more. For some of you have not the knowledge of God [you are utterly and willfully and disgracefully ignorant, and continue to be so, lacking the sense of God's presence and all true knowledge of Him]. I say this to your shame.
Mat 7:16 You will fully recognize them by their fruits. Do people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?
Mat 7:17 Even so, every healthy (sound) tree bears good fruit [worthy of admiration], but the sickly (decaying, worthless) tree bears bad (worthless) fruit.
Mat 7:18 A good (healthy) tree cannot bear bad (worthless) fruit, nor can a bad (diseased) tree bear excellent fruit [worthy of admiration].
Mat 12:36 But I tell you, on the day of judgment men will have to give account for every idle (inoperative, nonworking) word they speak.
Mat 12:37 For by your words you will be justified and acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned and sentenced.
Pro 10:19 In a multitude of words transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent.
Col 4:5 Behave yourselves wisely [living prudently and with discretion] in your relations with those of the outside world (the non-Christians), making the very most of the time and seizing (buying up) the opportunity.
Col 4:6 Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome), seasoned [as it were] with salt, [so that you may never be at a loss] to know how you ought to answer anyone [who puts a question to you].
I hope this message encourages, convicts, and brings fruit. If you have read this a wish to defend the use of cuss words, as a believer, please reconsider what the Scriptures teach us on these things. The only “proper context” for using such language, is from the lips of a man at enmity with God, walking according to the lusts of the flesh, according to the ways of this world, defending his pride. It has no place coming from the mouth of a man or woman, professing to love Christ.