Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!
Is Cussing A Sin
-by Tony Warren
cursing a sin? Is cussing a sin? Is cussing basically the same thing as cursing? These are some of the frequently asked questions that this article will seek to address. Because there are some who believe that because the actual phrase, "Thou shalt Not Cuss," is not found in scripture, this gives them liberty to cuss at will. Nothing could be further from the truth.
First we need to establish that despite claims to the contrary in some quarters, cursing and cussing are virtually the very same act. Even though there are some people who may attempt to differentiate the meaning of the two words, there really is no difference. The "fact" is, the word cuss is simply a colloquialism that is derived from the word curse. In other words, cuss is merely the slang form of the word curse. In it's most basic form, it is the verbal expression of a wish that a person, place, or thing, might suffer some evil, loss or harm. And although it is true that in modern times cursing has come to be used as an expression of disdain, vulgarity, or frustration, it is still typically a form of cursing. Disdain is a form of evil contempt, and vulgarity is a verbal offense. And shortening curses does not change the principle. For example, if someone were to shorten the phrase "God damn it," to simply saying, "Damn it," or even "Damn," that does not change it's basic meaning. Damn is a curse word, so that when we utter this word in frustration, we are pronouncing a curse on whatever or whomever we are frustrated with. And whether we say "damn you," or we merely day "damn," we are still cursing. Whether we say, "go to hell," or simply say "Oh hell," again, we are pronouncing a curse, and are thus cussing. There really is no difference between the two words. And using any other number of these words in a profane or unsavory way falls into this category of cursing.
But the objection remains, "how is cussing sin?" Well, because cursing, or pronouncing evil upon someone or something is "usually" sin. And in the context of the worldly cursing today, it is almost always sin. And a simple examination of the filthy meanings of these words will illustrate this. They are usually words (besides a curse) denoting filth, excrement, animals, sexual innuendo, or are otherwise insulting in some way. When people use these cuss words, they invariably do it to be profane (sin), as a vulgarity (sin), in a vain attempt to gain favor (sin), to placate those giving peer pressure (sin), to express a curse on someone (sin), or in some other negative connotation. What God glorifying way are cuss words used? They are often spoken in a bellicose or pugnacious manner, and this is not what should be coming out of the mouths of Christians. When is cussing ever done in a positive light? These facts in themselves should be proof enough for earnest Christians that this is not good, and that they abstain from this practice.
1st Thessalonians 5:21-22
And the fact is, a cussing Christian will make the unsaved stand up and take notice "because" they know that it is improper for someone taking the name of Christ to do this. Thus, we also give no appearance of evil, or cause for Christ to be spoken evil of.
- "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
- Abstain from all appearance of evil."
And this is not a phenomenon unique to any one place, cussing is a universal activity, so that in every nation and in every tongue, there are cuss/curse words. Whether they are pronouncements of deviant sex, damnation, affliction, or when one is likened unto animals, the words are almost always of a negative or filthy nature. And in any language cussing is offensive to some people, and so should not be something that a Christian should engage in. For anyone to claim that these words can be used today because their meaning is harmless or neutral, is spurious and dishonest. Because as Christians, we should, of the Holy Spirit moving within us, know what is Holy and acceptable speech.
Being led of the Spirit is the key phrase. And frankly, I believe that the Spirit leads all "true" Christians so that they will know what is acceptable speech, and what is worldly and unacceptable communication for Christians. But the mouth of the unregenerate speaks willfully (frowardly), because he doesn't have this Spirit, and there is no fear of God, giving wisdom to be reverent.
- "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
Filthy conversation is not a mystery, for what is acceptable for the child of God is known of him. For the truth is that it is the words that proceed from our mouths that reflect the spiritual condition of our hearts. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. So that whatever comes out of the mouth, comes from the heart. And the heart of man is desperately wicked. We know this, and we know what is acceptable language, and what is unchristian and unacceptable language. And often, so does the unsaved, who are often caught off guard by such inappropriate language proceeding out of the mouths of professing Christians.
- "The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out.
- The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness."
- "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
- But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."
If we are engaging in cussing, swearing, sexual innuendo, or any vulgar or filthy communication, then we should really take a good look at ourselves in the mirror. Because it is evidence that we need to examine ourselves to see what is the true condition of our hearts. Cussing is the filthy language of the world, and the children of God are in this world, but are not "of" this world. They are those chosen of God at enmity with the way of the world. Therefore the faithful Christian should not be using the same filthy communication, but speak as becometh ambassadors of Christ.
- "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."
When we are born from above we are to abandon the filthy communication of the world. Cursing is sin that doesn't build up others because it is the unholy language of the world. It usually is illustrating the nature of the person who is engaging in it. We are commanded to refrain from using language that is unclean, disgusting and foul. This conversation is often degrading, denigrating and belittling. It proceeds out of the mouth, but it is truly sin from the heart, because it is borne of man's carnality and sinful nature. As Christians born from above a new creation, we should put such communication of the flesh far from us.
- "But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth."
The Holy Spirit directs us to be honest with ourselves about just what is filthy and corrupt communications from our mouth. I don't think that cussing is a gray area in the scriptures, despite what many may say. It really all comes down to Godly control of our language or conversation so that it glorifies Christ.
- "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
- And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
What God's word is illustrating here is something that is often missed by Christians. Namely, the power and influence of an unruly and inappropriate tongue. The hypocrisy and self justification of professing Christians in claiming liberty to use foul language and filthy communications, is just another example of the creeping vine of apostasy. Man's beliefs, opinions, and reactions concerning cursing often arise from a misguided sense of liberty, wounded pride or determination to have our own way. It seems that modern Christians give no thought whatsoever to whether or not cursing reflects the "fragrance" of Christ. They are only concerned with their perceived "right" to speak any way that they want, and their self-righteous indignation over someone telling them it is unrighteous. This is a selfish attitude that is rampant in the Church today.
- "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
- And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell."
1st Corinthians 10:31-33
Christians must watch their language that we give no offense when possible and so that it is always God glorifying. For cussing or swearing is not edifying to the Church, or anyone else, and it does not minister grace unto the hearers (Ephesians 4:29). Therefore, it is "sin" in disobedience to the precepts and principles that God has laid down. Scripture instructs us to be aware of the importance of our speech, that it be as virtuous and holy as we can make it. So does worldly cursing and swearing qualify?
- "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
- Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:
- Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved."
Sanctify ourselves does not mean speak as the world does, it means we are "set apart" a holy people that do not behave as the world does.
- "Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God."
Some have made the objection, "but we can use a word like excrement, so why can't we use the other word which conveys the very same thing?" I think that the answer to that question should be obvious to the conscientious Christian. One word is the profane language that the world uses in open contempt and disdain for any authority that disapproves. And the other is a universally acceptable term for waste matter. Again, it really goes to the "heart" of the individual, and why a Christian would want to use that other term. Because clearly, there is no legitimate reason to do so. And it shows more about the rebellious condition of a man's heart, than it does about simple words. Yes, it is true that words themselves aren't the sin, but it is also an inescapable truth that the "normal" use of these cuss words in the world, are a verbal illustration of sin in the one who is using them. For we are "clearly" exhorted to use our speech in a holy way that is profitable, and that glorifies God. I don't think that even the users of such language will attempt to imply or declare that it glorifies God. And of course, that fact alone should be the end of it. But unfortunately it is not, because people are willful sinners, and they want to do whatever their heart desires. And they have a thousand different rationalizations to get around God's laws. I had a theologian plainly tell me cussing is not a sin, but then he added that we should be careful not to be engaging in this practice. But if it's not a sin, why should Christians be careful not to be engaging in it?
It doesn't take a Christian to know that cussing is not a good thing to do. And if it's not good, then makes it bad, which makes it sin. To do good is to refrain from this filthy communication, and to engage in it, is sin.
- "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."
Most Christians concede that cursing is sin, but asks if milder expressions like "heck" or "darn" are sins? The answer is yes, because they are the same words, disguised to be something else so that we can use these words without guilt. But they are still a curse when used in the "same" worldly fashion. For the meaning and intent is the same, only the letters were changed. It's a matter of the intents of the heart, not the word itself. If we're going to substitute the word "heck" for "hell," and use it in a cursing manner, we might just as well use the word hell itself. Because the intent is the same.
No Christian has yet rationally answered the question of why it is necessary for Christians to say "Heck," "go to blazes," "crap," "darn you," "gosh darn it," "bs," or any of the other silly phrases some people use in place of stronger curses and obscenities. I'm sure there are countless theologians who would say that words like "darn" and "heck" are not sinful because they don't have an obscene or filthy meaning, but they are missing the point entirely. Words aren't sin, the intents of the heart in violation of the laws of God is where the sin lies. i.e., why do Christians "have" to use these replacement words? Obviously they think the actual words should not be said. That's the point that many just don't want to honestly deal with. They are being disingenuous. Why can't a Christian simply say, "That's nonsense," and not use any of the other expletives or substitute terms for offensive language? The answer is, because they willfully want to sound like the world, while still calling themselves, of Christ. Thus, are they not yet carnal?
In their carnality, they still have the "nature" of the world and want to speak as it does. Which is brash, profane, prideful, flashy, decadent, vulgar, ostentatious, and arrogant. They want to "fit right in" with the world's conversation, rather than be Christians who are "set apart" from the speech of the world for the service of God. Deny this though they may, this is the "true" nature of the beast.
- "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
As the bride of Christ, we cannot serve our husband Christ, and serve the prince of this world as well. We cannot have horns like a lamb, and yet speak like a dragon. It is considered spiritual fornication to go after the ways of the world. We must bridle our tongue, that our language be not of the evil of the world, but of the holiness of Christ.
- "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
In modern society many people, especially teens, cuss because of peer pressure, of ego to attract attention to themselves, or in vain belief that it makes them appear more mature. But surely no Christian can use these reasons for cussing as justification of it? We cannot base Christian behavior or morality on changing culture or society, but on the authority of God's word.
- "Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.
- Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties."
Others may curse out of ignorance, because of their environment, or because of a limited vocabulary where they are unable to effectively articulate their thoughts and perspectives. But again, the countless reasons for cursing do not negate the Christian principles against it. Just as one being raised in an environment of crime may mean that their circumstances had something to do with their criminal activity, but does not justify their being a criminal. Environment doesn't justify sin.
And then there are those who don't think cursing is bad at all anymore. They make the claim that these are "just words," or that they previously had meanings which are no longer applicable. But it is completely irrelevant whether or not cursing has become "acceptable" in today's society. God's word of truth and morality is immutable. Those who use this excuse are deluding themselves, or rationalizing away unchristian conversation and behavior. If words didn't really matter, most certainly God would not call the tongue, "a fire, a world of iniquity that defiles the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell." Obviously God understands the power of words, and the differences between those who speak as becometh Christ, and those who speak as becometh the prince of this world. We are created in the image of God, therefore we should speak as becometh Godliness and not worldliness.
Remember the sin of the Apostle Peter? The same mouth that Peter uses to declare of Christ, "Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God," is the same mouth he uses a few weeks later cursing and swearing and telling the lie that, "I know not the man!" A vivid demonstration that, "Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be."
- "Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
- Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
- Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
- Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
- Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom."
These things should not be so, but they are. When someone is cursing or swearing, is he doing it out of a love of God? No, it is usually to show that they are either angry at something, someone, or are in frustration. So why would any true Christian be arguing that Christians have the liberty to cuss? The whole idea is like a conundrum to me. Because worldly cursing is not in any sense a noble enterprise, so why would a Christian (of all people) come to its defense? That is the question that is esoteric at best, and without rational answer. Christians are not to be as the world is, or to have the same lewd, vulgar, or vile conversation as the world does. As a new creation in Christ our behavior is constrained to be that which is "set apart" and different from that of the world. As servants of God, born of the Spirit in the knowledge of Christ, we should leave vulgar behavior behind in sanctification.
1st Peter 1:14-16
Cussing is not a sign of holiness or communion with God, but a sign that we are fashioning ourselves according to the former lusts, ignorant of the way of God. It is the behavior that is suitable for our previous nature, not for the child of God who has become knowledgeable, and whose desire is to bridle the tongue and speak as becomes the righteous. A mouth full of cursing is a mouth that has not been bridled.
- "As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
- But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
- Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."
When one normally curses people, or curses at people, they are generally emphasizing a point in their conversation denoting evil desire, hatred, anger, or frustration. And this anger and hatred is spiritually akin to murder. Even the senseless or pointless cussing is a testimony to the heart, and therefore, sin.
- "His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.
- He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor."
We're not saying these things because we feel superior, or because we have never cursed, or because we want to look down our noses at others. Christians understand that this does not edify, instruct, or Glorify Christ in any manner. This is the truth of God's Word. I'm sure that before salvation, for many Christians profanity was included in their conversation as well. Even after salvation they may have on occasion slipped and let a word out that does not let Christ's light shine. For no man is perfect, and all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But that doesn't give us license to continue in sin that grace may abound, or to speak any way we want because of Grace. Our desire as faithful Christians should be to seek holiness and to work according to the moving of the Holy Spirit. And you can be sure that the Holy Spirit isn't moving anyone to use offensive and foul language. So what spirit is? Our life should show forth the way of Christ, where we are not content to wallow in the ways of the world. Let our behavior, right down to our conversation, be that which is pleasing to God in the faith of the gospel.
God has called us to be His witnesses, proclaiming the gospel message to the world, and our behavior should reflect the same holiness we preach. That means our conversation, expressions, lifestyles, discussions, and speech. It should be virtuous as it becomes those who take upon themselves the name of Christ, and who preach the gospel of Christ. Taking the name of the Lord God in vain, cussing, using filthy communications, all these are sins against God. And all true Christians should know "of the Spirit" that worldly cussing does not qualify as Godly behavior. It is a stumbling block to others, and it makes us a part of the same body that we are told to be "set apart" from.
- "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;"
1st Peter 2:9
Christians are supposed to be set apart from the world and it's behavior, having been called out of the darkness of this world. But in our day, from the language and behavior of some "professing" Christians, it's hard to distinguish between Christian, and those who are still bound in darkness. When a professed Christian curses in his normal language, he disrespects both himself, and his witness for Christ. And don't think that the unsaved of the world do not recognize this hypocrisy either. It is inevitable that the unsaved will no longer think of that person as a true Christian set apart for the service of God, but as a pseudo-christian or hypocrite. He will (and rightly so) conclude that you are not "set apart" from the world. What he sees is that you are not of a different kingdom where you are a pilgrim here and your homeland is heaven. By your actions he sees that you are of the exact same nature, attitude, spirit, and disposition that he is. And the reason for this is simple, and can be explained in the old adage of the world.
- "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:"
"If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck."
Don't think for a minute that the unsaved can't recognize hypocrisy, because they're experts in indulging in it themselves.
There are even some theologians who (incredibly) think that Christians acting, living, and talking just as the world does, is really a good thing. They postulate that this is how we will win souls to Christ (as if this were possible), and is an example of a Christian like Paul, who became "all things to all people." Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul never acted as the world did in order to win the world. These theologians are deluded by their own hearts, and jaded in their own compromises. A foul mouthed person is not a good representative, nor representation of Christ. He is a mirror representation of the world. Thus his witness to a "new life" is not only weakened, it is effectively destroyed. Christians are to walk circumspectly. God exhorts us to live a distinctly Christian lifestyle, exhibit Godly behavior, and act according to our new life in the Holy Spirit. We may stumble, but we should never fall after the ways of the world fulfilling the lusts of the flesh.
If we, as good servants of God, keep our eyes on Christ and live according to our new life in the Spirit, then we will not have this desire to mimic the world's speech. We will be vexed by what our sinful flesh nature prods us to do. The comforting Spirit within us will give us an earnest desire to do the will of God, and God's will never exhorts us to worldly cursing and swearing. That just is not possible. And "that" most profound point should not be treated lightly, being deemed as insignificant. If we are professing to be Christians, and yet we are caught in the "continuing habit" of profane communication in cursing or swearing, we should be on our knees in prayer to God asking for forgiveness and deliverance from this sin.
- "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
- For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."
So what is the solution for those weary of this sin but caught in the habit of worldly language? The way out of this worldly verbal mire starts by recognizing it as sin. And then confessing it as sin, rather than rationalizing and denying that it is really sin. In the Spirit of Christ we pray God for humility, strength and repentance. And in Christ Jesus, where all things are possible, we will find our deliverance. In the love of God for us, we will find the love for Him wherein we receive a changed heart. Where we had a heart where cussing once didn't matter, it will be replaced by an earnest desire to do the things that are pleasing to God, rather than to ourselves. Then will we know true peace with God so that rather than continue fighting Him in worldly fashion of our own will, we will surrender to His will. We won't any longer pretend that we are good people, and that sins are not really sins, we will confess them before God, ask for forgiveness, and move on, knowing they have been washed away.
Let us understand that the Spirit moves us to do Holy things, it does not sit idly within the true believer. Christians will begin to do His will and obey His precepts "not" because they are better than others who are pleased to curse and swear. But because God has instilled in "His people" the divine knowledge of truth, and the earnest desire to do His will. So no longer will saints cuss and swear in ignorance, but the blood of Christ will work in us that our hearts and minds are perfected by His Love.
- "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
- And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."
Will the perfect Christ have a mouth that is full of worldly cussing and swearings and filthy conversations? Does cussing show forth Christ's light and love to others, or would we be totally ashamed to speak this way when standing before Christ. Only the Spirit of God will reveal the truthful answer. Let us therefore be perfect, even as our father in heaven is perfect, and give thanks for His compassion and mercy. Let us thank him for giving us the knowledge that we should turn away from such ungodliness.
- "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
I think it's helpful to use this test of Christ's return. Simply ask yourself, "would I be comfortable cussing and swearing when Christ returns?" The honest answer is usually is a good judge of if we "truly" think that something is sin, or if we are just kidding ourselves in self-justification. So let us put off the old man, and worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Let the world see His light in our conversation, and in all our behavior. Not just in our visage, but in our civility, in our recreations, and above all, in the daily witness of our lives. For we must set forth the Glory of God as our chief and principle aim in all things.
May our precious Lord, who is gracious above all, grant that many will come to see the necessity of Holy conversation and Godly behavior. May we understand that God's people must "show" themselves set apart from the world, and not in communion with it. May we be blessed to glorify our God both in communication, and the way we live.
Copyright ©2004 Tony Warren
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