The question of whether Christians can cuss or not has come to my attention recently, as I have seen more and more Christians, both on the platform and in the congregation, freely speaking profanities and even boasting about it. Because of this, I have decided to write this blog post to answer this question and to help those who have merely been taught not to cuss but don’t truly understand the reasoning behind it. So let’s dive into what the Bible teaches us.
Can Christians cuss/swear? While the Bible does not lay out a list of explicit words to steer clear from, it is clear that Christians are to stay away from “filthy language,” “unwholesome talk,” and “crude joking.” Christians are instructed to keep from being polluted by the world and to reflect the image of God, therefore Christians should not cuss.
This is a rather vague answer and is in need of some unpacking so that we can come to a solid conclusion, so the rest of this blog will be dedicated to this.
Out of the Mouth Flows the Heart
There are several reasons to not cuss that should be observed, but before I go any further, let’s knock down any religiosity that goes along with not cussing. We as Christians can become very pious and religious in things that we do, yet not know why we do them.
I don’t write this blog to condemn those who do cuss, swear, or curse––whichever word you are inclined to use, nor do I write to condemn those who take a religious pride in not cussing, it is instead to bring truth to this fuzzy topic.
That being said, the first and perhaps the biggest reason to not cuss is in the fact that it has much to do with the state of your heart.
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.Luke 6:45 (ESV)
Many modern-day pastors, or what some call, “hipster Christians,” are breaking “the mold,” they are breaking away from traditional Christianity that many would describe as “stuffy and religious.” One of the many ways that this is being done is by cussing.
Cussing is seen as a way to break the chains that make you fit into that old mold of Christianity. I have talked to many who have explained their reasoning, some say to relate to unbelievers and bring them to Christ, others claim the scripture in 1 Corinthians 8 as the basis for cussing, and still, others who have places of influence in music or preaching, etc. state they desire to be “real.”
And I am sure there are other reasons not listed above, whatever the case, the Bible shows us in multiple places that foul language is not beneficial to the body of Christ in any way.
Luke 6 above shows us clearly that our hearts can be filled with good or evil, it depends on what we store in it, and whatever we store in it will inevitably flow out, this implies that bad things can flow out. This is not just name-calling, slander, or falsehood, but actual “obscene talk,” as Colossians 3 shows us.
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.Colossians 3:8 (ESV)
Another major point that comes from Colossians 3 is a couple versus just before verse 8, it describes profanity as being a part of the former life we lived before coming to Christ.
This passage is pretty clear in its intent and instructions to us, cussing is not something Christians should practice, so let’s now move on to defining cussing.
What Constitutes as Cussing/Swearing
Reason two for not cussing is answered here.
Cussing is defined as vulgar, sexually inappropriate, or harsh, and if you google it, you will find that it is described as an expression of anger which is why it is grouped as it is in Colossians 3.
The key thing to note is that cuss words and their meanings have nothing to do with Christ, in fact, they actually are the opposite of who God is. These words and their implications are in direct opposition to all that Christ stands for.
They are generally degrading, harsh, and used to insult in many circumstances. In short, they are in no way uplifting.
Cussing in From Culture to Culture
Now how then do we answer the question of curse words that differ from culture to culture?
For example, words we consider profane here in America are not considered thus in places like Ireland or various countries in South America and vice versa. The answer is that words themselves are not deemed unGodly in the Bible, but the intent, heart, and cultural understanding behind them.
It is the culture that defines a word as inappropriate, therefore if you grew up in America, you understand certain words and exactly what their meaning and intent are. In another country, it may not be a curse word to you but as Christians, “we become all things to all people so that we might save some…” so if you’re overseas, respect for that culture should keep us from speaking out those words, though our conscious might be clear.
Do What is Uplifting
This topic is a rather hard one to tackle as there are many factors that play in, but I believe the key element here is that we are called to lives that are uplifting to the body of Christ. By definition, foul language is in opposition to uplifting speech and actions as it is negative, filthy, and degrading.
There are countless verses that speak on the importance and the power of the tongue, James 1 explains that if we do not keep a tight reign on our tongue our religion is worthless, and proverbs 18 states that there is the power of life and death in the tongue.
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.Matthew 10:16
Words are not merely words, they have power whether we understand just how much or not, so it is very important for us to weigh the words we speak. God has instructed us to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world and to be innocent as doves.
Why doves? Because doves are an image of purity and innocence; this does not equal naivety or weakness, but instead that we pursue and think on things that are pure and righteous.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8
What we consume, by way of reading, movies, spending time with friends, enters our hearts and minds; whatever we put into our hearts, will shape our hearts and pour out. Therefore as followers of Christ, we are called to fill ourselves with the fruit of the spirit so that we might uplift one another and reflect the heart of God in all that we do.