Cursing: What Does The Bible Say About It?

[stextbox id="custom"]This article is from the “What does the Bible say about” series. Here are some others  (1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th8th9th).[/stextbox]

Few things can so adequately reveal the character of a person than the words that come out of their mouth (or that they tweet or post on social media websites!). In fact, you can learn a lot about a stranger in just a 3-minute conversation, from nothing more than their speech.

Words have the power to build up and to tear down. The Bible says that our tongues are a world of iniquity. We bless God out of one side and curse Him out of the other side. We gossip and bad mouth people made in God’s image, but we can also build them up with a few choice words.

Encouraging words are so beneficial. Imagine what the world would be like if people spent more time each day encouraging others around them. Just imagine…

Encouraging words cost us nothing to give away, we have an unlimited arsenal of them, and the recipients get remarkably blessed when receiving them. Strange, that we don’t encourage others more with words.

What is wrong with a little curse word now and then?

Using curse words is a different altogether, however. It doesn’t seem strange to me that unbelievers use curse words, because it is almost expected. But I just never understand why “Christians” would ever curse. It is out of character and flat-out sinful to do so.

I’ll never forget a conversation I was having with an older man at a church one Sunday morning, many years ago. We were in between the Sunday school and main worship services, just chatting about this and that. And then he threw it out there. Boom! Four letters long and dripping with contempt.

A curse word. What?

I couldn’t believe it. I had to do a double-take. Did he really say that?

I learned so much about that man in that very moment.

  • I learned about how his walk with the Lord is going.
  • I learned about his theology
  • I learned about his sanctification
  • I learned about his family life
  • I learned about the type of father he is to his sons
  • And I learned that he did not care to sin so freely in front of others.

Yes, you can learn a lot about someone from a brief conversation.

NOTE: I didn’t learn “everything” about that man that morning, but more was revealed to me than I think he will ever know. I’m not the final Judge of people, words, or even intentions, but I do believe I know what God thought about his choice of words that morning.

What does the Bible say about cursing and loose speech? Here are God’s thoughts on the matter.

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

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.

Matthew 15:10-11 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

James 3:10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

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.

Matthew 12:36-37 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

James 3:6-8 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.

2 Timothy 2:16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,

Proverbs 21:23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.

Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

QUESTION: What do you think about Christians using curse words? Is it acceptable or is it sinful?

* Image credit: Will Wallace (Creation Swap)

Comments

    • Katalambano says

      Well, since Paul himself didn’t seem to shy away from fairly offensive swear words when they were appropriate to the subject matter or circumstances, I’d say a blanket prohibition against them for the Christian life is unwise. Here is the well-known example of Paul choosing a very offensive word in order to emphasize a personal and theological point.

      The Word: Skubalon

      Def: dung, (human) excrement; crap or shit

      TDNT Entry: In the plural, as in Phil 3:8, most ancient sources show it
      as involving intentional emotive or offensive provocation, so closer to our equiv. for crap
      or shit. NT: Phil 3:8. [Other ancient uses: Plu. 2.352d; Alex. Aphr. Pr. 1.18; Aret. SD 1.15; Artemid.
      Onirocr. 1.67; 2.14; Str. 14.1.37; Josephus BJ 5.571; 5.13.7; PFay. 119.7 (i/ii AD). Cf. also
      Sirach 27:4]

      Philippians 3:8 (Greek)-

      ἀλλὰ μενοῦνγε καὶ
      ἡγοῦμαι πάντα ζημίαν εἶναι διὰ τὸ ὑπερέχον
      τῆς γνώσεως Χριστοῦ
      Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου μου, διὃν
      τὰ πάντα ἐζημιώθην, καὶ ἡγοῦμαι
      σκύβαλα, ἵνα
      Χριστὸν κερδήσω…

      A literal translation:

      But indeed I also consider everything to be loss on account
      of the surpassing knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of whom I forfeited
      all things; and I consider them shit so that I may gain Christ…

      Most mainstream translations soften it: “rubbish” (NAS)
      “refuse” (RSV) or “garbage” (TNIV) [But KJV allows “dung”].

      Thoughts?

      • says

        While I certainly do appreciate your comment and the conversation, I think you are wrong in your assessment.

        Actually, let’s start off by asking whether or not you believe that the Bible is pure, holy, God-breathed, and inerrant? If you don’t then I understand why you might ask such a question. However, if you believe that it is a holy work, inspired and God-breathed and altogether sinless, then I’m not sure how you can propose the above.
        For example, Paul said the following: Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)
        Paul wouldn’t use a curse word and the Holy Spirit would “inspire” him to do it, either. So, no, it isn’t the four-letter word you have suggested. It would seem more appropriate to think of it as dung, waste, or excrement.

    • Matticus says

      Being a Christian myself, I don’t agree.

      I think our religion has skewed and twisted things to make them seem bad(sex, drinking, swearing.)

      Eph. 4:29, for example, I think can be more literally translated to “lying, slandering, blaspheming.” None of these are swearing.

  1. Gillingham Jeff says

    I agree wholeheartedly. When I was saved, my cursing stopped, but I am amazed at my own thoughts that struggle to communicated. There is definitely a struggle of the Spirit and the flesh at times. Eph. 4:29 is one of the passages that I am constantly convicted of. Oh how I desire to have God to change any critical spirit within me.  I firmly believe it is one of the greatest areas that show the world, we are different; in the world but not of the world. Blessings.

    • says

      Gillingham! I haven’t spoken to you in ages! Hope you’re doing well, brother.

      I also had a potty-mouth before salvation. When God makes us born again, we get a new and clean heart. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. Although we aren’t sinless, we certainly do sin a lot less.

      Stay focused on the Lord, my friend. God is so good. Blessings to you and your family!

      PS: Are you still attending Riverpark Bible Church?

  2. says

    Charles, I’d like to challenge you a little on this one. “Four letters long” and “dripping with contempt” are two different things entirely. And I’ll respectfully suggest that most of the scripture you have quoted pertains more to the latter than the former. 

    • says

      I love to be challenged, Mike (but only if I can win). LOL.

      I assume there were vulgar, curse words 2,000 years ago in the Jewish and, particularly Greek, cultures. But frankly, I don’t know for sure. My article was primarily for today’s society.

      However, I’m not sure there would be much difference…in the eyes of the Lord, that is…between the two. Both would be considered sinful, and whether you’re calling someone a “fool” or “Raca!” I assume there is little difference to God.

      What do you think? Are you coming from a different angle?

      • says

        Thanks for the response Charles. I think you’ve made some broad assumptions there that I wouldn’t be comfortable making–in the eyes of the Lord, little difference to God–and your whole point seems to hinge on those assumptions being true. My point is that I’ve heard some of the most beautiful things spoken sprinkled with some four letter words, and I’ve heard some of the most contempt-dripping stuff uttered with nothing but the good King’s English. 

        For the record I’m a Jesus Follower who utters the occasional colorful word. I’m more concerned with the context than the word itself. 

        • says

          Well, I suppose we come from two different camps on this one, and will likely have to agree to disagree. 

          My usage of phrases like “in the eyes of the Lord” and “little difference to God” are based upon what Scripture teaches, not a subjective personal opinion. (And yes, that’s my opinion of, and interpretation of, Scripture.)

          A few questions for you. Did Jesus ever use curse words? What about Paul? What about Peter, John, Stephen, etc.  If Jesus were standing next to you, would you use those 4-letter words? I assume you wouldn’t. And if you wouldn’t in that scenario, then I can think of no reason why it would ever be proper to do so in any other situation.

          Lastly, you wrote the following, “I’ve heard some of the most beautiful things spoken sprinkled with some four letter words…”
          I challenge that statement. How in the world can something that is sprinkled with “sin” be beautiful, whether in the eyes of Christians or God?

          What do you think?

          • says

            I don’t agree with your assumption, which was the point I was making above. A word isn’t a sin. Maybe the intention of the person who delivers it can be, but even then I’m not able to make that judgement. Having had a mentally ill drug addict tell me that I must be “a f***ing angel sent by God” because of a kindness I showed her, that goes down as one of the most beautiful, moving things I’ve ever heard. (I used the * out of respect for your position on the issue, not because I’m uncomfortable repeating the word!)

            Lets agree to disagree. I think there’s probably a lot of things that we come from two different camps on Charles, but I appreciate the dialogue, and the questions.

            • says

              Thanks, Mike. I do appreciate the dialogue, as well. Iron sharpens iron, so hopefully you (and me also) got sharpened a bit from our conversation. ;-)

              Feel free to stop by anytime. God bless!

              PS: I think that also illustrates another key point that many Christian circles miss. Just because people disagree on some issues doesn’t mean…at all!…that we need to cut ties with them and sever the relationship. Thanks for stopping by, friend.

          • Matticus says

            ” Did Jesus ever use curse words? What about Paul? What about Peter, John, Stephen, etc.”

            We don’t know, and probably never will. You don’t get their entire biographies with the Bible.

  3. Mathew says

    I am not saying whether cursing is wrong or right as I can see both sides. But I have a question, what is considered a curse word and who determines what is a curse word?

    • says

      That’s a valid question, Mathew, and one that I’ve thought about as well.

      I guess the following could help:

      1) There are certain words in our vocabulary that “everyone” knows are curse words. Those words would certainly qualify as curse words.

      2) There are other words that we sometimes use that we “know” (previous knowledge) are questionable and will likely be offensive to people when we say them. Those “could” be considered curse words.

      3) Our consciences will convict us about words that could be considered curses. God gave us consciences for a reason. When we violate our conscience by using words that we “feel” we probably shouldn’t, it could be a curse word. 

      4) Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

      5) Titus 2:7-8 “in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.”

  4. Timothy W Boehnlein says

    Using words to describe what something is, is not sin. Bad language is language that destroys. You know that God creates with words. We can also create or destroy with words.
    If you would like to take what people say and judge them that is your prerogative.

    • says

      Thanks for your comment, Timothy. I appreciate the dialogue.

      We all use words to describe things, but that does not mean God is honored or approves of sinful speech. Moreover, we are to judge people. And the way we judge is by words and actions. The Scripture proves this over and over again.

      Again, I will always go back to what the Scripture says, and it says thus:

      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.”

      • Timothy W. Boehnlein says

        Sorry, I forgot about this comment I left. My response is that I do not know what bible you are referring to regarding that we should be judging people. I read this:

        Matthew 7:1
        “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

        Luke 6:37
        “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

        John 12:47
        “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did NOT come to judge the world, but to save the world.”

        In other words:
        “Once you label me you negate me.”
        ― Søren Kierkegaard

        WHAT we do and say may be WHAT we are but it is not WHO we are. WHO we ALL are is children of OUR Father. WHAT we do can reveal WHAT is inside us but ALL SIN AND FALL SHORT. WE are forgiven BEFORE we sin. “Father forgive them for they know NOT what they do” is for ALL people. If we judge our fellow man we can not see WHO they are. Jesus comes to proclaim the year of Jubilee, forgiveness of debt for everyone. How can we love our neighbor if we judge our neighbor? And who is our neighbor?

  5. Keith says

    If you look at all of this in context, I think we can see that it’s really more about the spirit in which these things are said rather than the words themselves.

    I believe it’s just as wrong to use “replacement” words to say something negative.

    For the Christ-Follower, everything we do should be in love with the purpose to glorify God and edify those around us.

    With that in mind, I don’t understand why a Christian would want to use “curse words”, even if it’s not expressly prohibited. All things may be lawful but are they expedient? What’s the purpose? I know a lot of people who do it to stir up controversy and express their viewpoints about Christian liberty. This almost always leads to an argument. Really what they’re doing is becoming a stumbling block to those other believers around them…which is clearly against Scripture.

    Also, study the account of Peter’s denial of Jesus. When he was sitting around the fire trying to blend in, he was accused of being a disciple of Christ because he did not talk the way the others did. He denied and was again accused. He immediately started cursing. This was an attempt to blend in with the unbelievers around him and deny his allegiance to Christ.

    I can’t speak for anyone else on this issue or others like it, but if I’m to err, I will err on the side of holiness.

    God bless.

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