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Should Christians Cuss?

I grew up with a lot of my family members feeling very comfortable using cuss words. It wasn’t everybody, but it was a commonality in my family, with many of my relatives deploying cuss words left and right. It was a very common occurrence. I heard them all the time growing up. I was not very old at all when I knew what all of the cuss words were, including the worst ones. I think that’s a common approach to cussing that it’s just great. It’s a normal way to speak. It’s a great way to speak. It emphasizes what we want to speak about on the other end of the continuum. There are people who view cussing as very, very bad. You’re never supposed to cuss. This is not something you’re ever supposed to do. And somewhere in the very broad middle is where I think most people are. And that is that cussing isn’t great, but it’s acceptable in some circumstances. It’s not for polite company. But if you’re alone with a really close friend, that’s okay. If you step on one of your kid’s Legos, it’s okay. If you bang your head into the door when you’re up going to the restroom at night. It’s okay. We don’t want to advertise it. We don’t embrace it. But it’s okay. I want to talk today about whether or not Christians should cuss. Is that something we should do? Is it always wrong? Is it great? Or is it somewhere in the middle where there are some exceptions where it’s allowed?

Different Categories of Language

Well, the first thing we have to do is figure out what a cuss word is. For our purposes, I’m going to say that a cuss word is when you speak in a coarse, harsh, vulgar type way. There are several different categories of language that we turn into cuss words. You don’t have to worry; I’m not going to use any examples of cuss words. But there are four different categories of language that we turn into cuss words. We tend to speak in coarse ways about the body and body functions. So, we know of cuss words that are course ways to speak about the body and body functions. We know of cuss words that are course ways to speak about eternity. This is where I can use an example without getting into a problem. Christians believe in hell. We believe in hell as that place where you go when you don’t repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ. Well, that word, which is a legitimate place, which is a location that’s described in hell, we use that as a cuss word when we speak in a course way about eternity.

There are also categories where we speak in course ways to express surprise. It might be a good surprise, or it might be a bad surprise. But one thing that cuss words do is they speak in coarse and vulgar ways to communicate surprise. And then a final category we can talk about is coarse ways to speak about God. We speak about God in a way that is coarse, harsh, vulgar, and out of place. In each of these categories and any more that we would consider, we would be taking a legitimate category. We’d be taking something that is a legitimate thing to talk about. And we would be stripping it away from its good context and putting it into a bad context, a course harsh or vulgar context.

What Does the Bible Say About Cussing?

Now, the question is, can we ever do that? Can Christians cuss? And what I want to say is no. That is to say, in that continuum that I painted for you a few moments ago, either that it’s great under certain circumstances, or it’s always wrong. I want to encourage us as Christians to occupy the place on the continuum where we would say it is always wrong. And the reason for that is because it says so in the Bible. Ephesians 5:4 is just one place we could go, but it’s just one, and it says, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk, nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be Thanksgiving.” I want you to notice here the apostle Paul says, let there be no filthiness, foolish talk, or crude joking. He doesn’t feel any need to give you a list of examples. There was coarse, harsh, vulgar, crude language in the ancient world. Those words would have sounded different than our words sound today in 21st-century English. But there were coarse, harsh, and vulgar words that were used in the ancient world. The apostle Paul feels no pressure to give us examples of what they are. He doesn’t say, don’t use words like this. His point is you should not speak in filthy, foolish, crude, coarse, vulgar ways. You shouldn’t use these words. You don’t need me to tell you what they are. You know what they are. The reality is that in every time, in every place, every culture cordons off some words that are improper, that are impolite, that are course harsh, and vulgar. The apostle Paul says when you know what those words are, you should not use them. Let there be no filthiness, foolish talking, or crude joking, which are out of place. In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul is talking to people who have been transformed by the blood of Jesus. He says you are living a different life. You are engaged in a new vocation as you live life on this planet. And that ought to be reflected in everything you do. It ought to be reflected in what you say. It is out of place for Christians to speak in coarse, harsh, and vulgar ways, the same way people do who don’t know Jesus Christ. It’s just wrong. It’s out of place. It’s not what we ought to do.

We can say even more than that. We can say that there’s more at stake than just it being at a place. And that’s one other passage that we can look at; in Matthew 12:34, Jesus says, “That out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” This is why if you’re one of these people who says just sometimes when you got to say a cuss word, sometimes when you trip on the steps, or bang your head or drop a jar in the kitchen, or a kid does something or somebody’s mean to you, there’s just sometimes when a cuss word is the only word that will do. And what you just said is you described your heart. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. There are sometimes when a cuss word is the only word that will do because your heart isn’t right. The reality is that a heart that is transformed by Jesus is going to love to speak the way Jesus speaks and is going to hate to speak the way the world speaks. This doesn’t mean that if you slip and say a cuss word if you get angry and say a cuss word, you’re not saved. It means you’ve said something that is out of place, and you ought to repent. It means you need to ask Jesus for grace to change from language that is coarse, harsh, and vulgar to language that is pure, gentle, peaceable, and reflects the grace of Jesus.