What's Wrong with Profanity?
By Hannah Goodwyn
I will forever have an image of my mother staring me down with soap in her hand, warning me. Mom taught us not to cuss. To this day, she cringes at the sound of someone using a curse word.
As a rebellious teenager, I disregarded her “old-fashioned” virtues, arguing that cussing just wasn’t that big of a deal. For her sake, I stopped letting the four-letter words fly. Now that I’m an adult, I have decided to revisit this controversial issue by asking this question: Is cussing a sin?
Simply put, profanity is “abusive, vulgar, or irreverent language” (at least that’s what dictionary.com says). Taking this vague definition at face value, one could say that profanity includes much more than the common words we label as "curse" words. That’s a whole other discussion. For now, the debate is foundational; should Christians curse?
The answer is … (what we’ll discover together in these next few paragraphs as I consult God’s Word on the topic).
The Power of the Tongue
Another image from my childhood that haunts me is from my high school days. One night during a youth service, my pastor – who we called Mr. J. – spoke about the importance of guarding your tongue. In the middle of his sermon, he uncovered a disturbing object for that night’s lesson. To our horror and wide-eyed amazement, he held up a gigantic cow’s tongue. Every time I hear a reference to the power of our words or a verse about keeping your mouth in check, I think of that slimy, pink tongue.
The point of that sermon: our mouths can either build up or tear down. Meaning, we should be very careful of what we say. This warning includes the dangers of gossip and lies, but also cursing.
Although the Bible doesn’t explicitly ban the use of profanity, there are scriptures that seem to discourage it.
Here are a few of those scriptures:
And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. James 3:6-9 (New Living Translation)
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 2 Timothy 2:16 (NLT)
From what I gather, it’s best to avoid cussing. One reason is that it’s just not that uplifting to hear yourself or someone else curse. Another reason is simply that there is no rationale for it. Aren’t there other words in the English dictionary that would work just as well? A third reason is that usually it is an extreme emotion that triggers the use of profanity. More often than not, we’re angry, and our first reaction is to cuss at the air over an inconvenience or the driver who just cut us off in traffic. If we rein in that emotion, we’ll no longer need to use the “colorful metaphors”.
Watch Your Foul Language
Although I’m convinced that cussing isn’t glorifying to God, I’m not on the side of the Christian camp that is overly-obsessed with its evils. For instance, if compared with some other sin, I would put more importance on, let’s say, lying to your parents than letting a curse word slip. God’s Word is clear about honoring and obeying parents; it’s not even close to being negotiable.
Many also consider the rules about profanity to be a cultural issue. Some countries are more relaxed about using cuss words in everyday conversations; even Christians don’t adhere to a ban on profanity.
This article isn’t meant to condemn those who aren’t advocates for a curse-free society. However, I hope it does encourage you to take a look at what God says about this issue.
My personal resolution is to stop cussing. My reasoning is based on the fact that I recognize the power of what I say and want use it in a way that is pleasing to God.
My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long. Psalm 35:28 (New International Version)
Let praise flow from my lips,
for you have taught me your decrees.
Let my tongue sing about your word,
for all your commands are right.
Psalm 119:171-172 (New Living Translation)
Hannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for CBN.com. For more articles and info, visit Hannah's bio page.
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