Q: #352. Is cussing/swearing/cursing a sin?
By: Steve Shirley
A: When discussing things that the Bible calls sin, cussing, swearing, or cursing rarely comes up. Some believe it isn't even a sin, or if it is, it is a "minor" sin. There are also those who think the Bible doesn't talk about this sin. However, what they fail to understand is that the Bible simply uses different words in describing this sin. In the Bible, it is called "evil, filthy, or corrupt communication" or "evil speaking."
The Bible says to:
"let no corrupt communication proceed from your mouth" (Eph 4:29),
"put off all .... filthy communication out of your mouth" (Col 3:8),
"keep thy tongue from evil" (Ps 34:13)(1 Pet 3:10),
"lay aside .... all evil speakings" (1 Pet 2:1),
"Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips." (Prov 4:24: NIV).
(1 Cor 15:33) says, "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners." A "mouth full of cursing" is said to belong to those who are unrighteous (Rom 3:10-14). Think hard about this verse too: (Mt 15:18) "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man" (also see: Mt 12:34, Lk 6:45). In other words, what comes out of our mouth shows what is in our heart!
The worst way we can cuss/swear/curse is to break the 3rd Commandment which says "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (Ex 20:7). I speak in detail about this grievous sin in another question, so I will not discuss this here. Please take the time to read this as well.
While obedience to the above commands is reason enough not to cuss, let me give you a few more things to consider. First, why do we cuss. Generally, we cuss in conjunction with such things as anger, frustration, hatred, contempt, or disgust. Sometimes, we do it to demean or belittle someone we dislike. From a Godly and Biblical standpoint, obviously cussing is not the way to handle these things. Instead, the Bible says we are always to speak, and do everything, in a way that brings honor and glory to the name of our Lord (1 Cor 10:31)(Col 3:17,23). A good verse to remember is (Ps 19:14) "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."
So, what words ARE "acceptable in the sight" of the Lord. The words we speak should: be a "well/fountain of life" (Prov 10:11)(Prov 4:20-22), have "wisdom" (Prov 31:26), bring "healing" (Prov 12:18)(Prov 15:4), be "good/kind" (Prov 12:25), be "sweet" (Prov 16:21,24), be "pleasant" and promote "health" (Prov 16:24)(Prov 15:26), be "gracious" (Ecc 10:12)(Lk 4:22), and "be always full of grace" (Col 4:6). Obviously, when we cuss/swear, this is the opposite of these things. And, if the words of our mouth hurt others, we are called: "godless" (Prov 11:9) and "void of wisdom" (Prov 11:12).
Another good reason for a Christian not to curse is the possibility that it can ruin our testimony and witness to others. There is a great story I heard as an example of this. A pro football player was an outspoken Christian and everyone knew of his faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, when he was on the field, he would swear at and taunt opposing players. During one of the games, after he had done this, he heard an opposing player say to another, "I thought this guy was supposed to be a Christian." After he heard this, he realized his language on the field was destroying his Christian witness. From that moment on, he stopped swearing.
In the Bible, Peter also realized that swearing might make people believe he was not a follower of Christ. In (Matt 26:74)(Mk 14:71), when he was denying Christ, he was asked if he was one of Christ's disciples, and he began to "curse and swear" to make them believe he wasn't.
I will admit, I also faced this issue in my life. Before I became a Christian, I used to swear a lot. This was especially true when I played basketball, and I used to play a LOT. Pretty much every time I made a mistake, or missed a shot, I would cuss. Well, then I became a Christian (testimony here). I kept playing basketball, and kept cussing, but now it was bothering me. I tried to stop, and while it got to be less, I just couldn't stop completely. It was a habit that went with basketball, and the people I played with. Finally, I had to quit basketball because I did not like what it was doing to me and my witness (I was a new and weak Christian then).
In conjunction with this, daughters entered the picture. You start to think a lot more about the way you speak when you have children. You definitely don't want to set a bad example for them. And, I did not want to be that parent that says, "It's ok for me to cuss because I am an adult, but I don't want to hear cuss words coming from YOUR mouth!" I always find this kind of talk to be ridiculous: "It is ok for me to cuss, drink, smoke, look at porn, watch bad t.v. shows or movies, have premarital sex, etc... because I am an adult, but you can't because you are a child." It's like being an adult gives people a license to do certain ungodly things. In God's eyes, certain sins do NOT become acceptable just because one is an adult!
Friends, the Bible tells us a number of times that we are to be separate from this world, and the things associated with it (James 1:27)(Rom 12:2)(James 4:4)(1 Jn 2:15-17). As far as cussing goes, when we speak in this way, we do not stand out as any different from "the world." Instead, we should strive to be that person who others know is a Christian, and when they cuss, they feel convicted and apologize to us for using bad language. Are you that person? Do you stand out as a "light" in your speech, as well as your actions? Do others want what you have? Speak life!