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His Master's Voice
|Copyright © 2009 - All rights retained by author|
|Written by: C. W. Booth|
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Cussiní (Use of Cursing, Swear Words, and Foul Language by Christians)
Is it proper for Christians to use obscene or vulgar language? This rarely becomes an issue with the community of believers that populate the cities and towns in our area. For us, it primarily becomes a question when self-described postmodern pastors employ "dirty words" with great alacrity and defend this behavior by invoking the old dictum, "Be all things to reach all people--and I am trying to reach the unchurched and the young who see nothing wrong with swearing."
First, letís be clear. Paul never meant he sinned when he said "To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22). He meant that if a person were weak in accepting that the Law was obsolete and so remained living as a Jew, he would live as a Jew too if that would allow him to more readily make an impact with the gospel on those living as Jews. It never was a sin to live as a Jew, as the sinless life of Jesus will attest.
But is cussing inherently a sin? First, certain words are associated in our culture with being "bad words." Usually these bad words are vulgarisms for the natural acts of defecating and having sex. Neither defecating nor being romantic with oneís spouse is sinful. And many godly farmers, especially in the Pennsylvania Dutch area, routinely use a vulgarism for manure because in their culture the vulgarism does not carry the stigma of being a "bad word."
These vulgarisms for manure and sex became "bad words" not for what they described, but largely because they were applied as curses against people and things. For example, in our day a common "bad word" describes the sex act. But it often was employed not to mean ordinary marital relations, but rather, "I hope you get raped." That is literally invoking a curse against someone. When that same word is used as an expletive about a thing or event, the same meaning applies; the speaker intends to convey, "I curse this day and wish that it could be raped." Wishing someone or something to be raped is almost always nothing more than wishing a curse upon that one.
Most vulgarisms are overtly curses. Some express a wish to condemn people to Hell, quite explicitly, as in the majority of damnation expressions. Even saying, "Darn it" is just a veiled form of damning that thing to Hell. And this is what makes the use of "bad words" and caustic vulgarisms sinful. The words themselves are not really inherently bad, for often they have valid ordinary meanings. It is the intentional curse against people and things that turn these vulgarisms into sins.
God alone may curse man and things. God alone judges whether a sinner will be sent to Hell. When God cursed mankind, the snake, and the Earth in Genesis 3, it was because mankind had committed a crime against God so heinous it deserved this curse. Yet, God Himself, at the cost of the life of His own Son, provided the means of escape from the curse. When God cursed man in Genesis 3, it was not merely a wish for a curse, but it was a literal and binding curse which God invoked. He alone can invoke binding curses.
Whenever a man invokes a curse, he is putting himself into Godís throne. Man can utter curses, but it is always a sin to do so, for man has no authority or power to carry out the curse and no ability to judge another manís heart so as to genuinely determine if anyone is actually deserving of the curse. Notice that Peter invoked a curse against himself to try to give his lie credibility (when he denied that he knew Jesus), yet, his own curse against himself was vain, for a Christian cannot condemn himself to Hell after God has redeemed him.
In Matthew 5:22 we are told that Jesus commanded us never to say to a brother, "You are a good-for-nothing fool." That is the core meaning behind any curse: "You are worthless and deserve eternal destruction." It is an unloving insult, and it is a lie, for what God has redeemed cannot be considered worthless or be subjected to a curse. Further, would you curse an unbeliever who might be among the elect of God who has simply not yet been saved?
The word "cussing" is really a shorthand form of the word "cursing." Cursing means to bestow a curse against someone, to wish them pain, suffering, and often, eternal damnation. Cussing is not really the use of shockingly vulgar words, it is the use of words that convey your desire that a person or thing be mercilessly punished, or to verbalize your desire to wreak your vengeance upon them, as if you were God and had the perfect justice and mighty power to carry this out. Well, men do not have such perfect discernment, nor do they have the power, nor do they have the authority. Vengeance (cursing) belongs to God alone. And each time a man curses another man he demonstrates his ignorance of the Scriptures and his arrogance as he attempts to seat himself on the throne of God.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. (Romans 12:18-19)
For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY." And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:30-31)
Note: a related topic is "swearing an oath." In this practice, the swearing is not invoking an eternal curse, as in cussing, but invoking an eternal authority, namely God, to guarantee the outcome of your promise. This too is a forbidden practice in the New Testament: for more information on that topic please read Oaths, Vows, Pledges, and Sovereignty at
[Note: the above essay was originally posted as a blog entry which I wrote and put online April 7, 2009. As such, it was subject to public commentary as is customary with blogging. As a practical matter, I normally delete the comments entered on the blog site when building this essay archive. If you wish to read the comments posted by others about the essays, you are invited to go online, read them, or post your own comments.
However, on a few occasions the comments and perhaps my own responses to the comments are so core to understanding the essay, or the implications of the essay, that I have chosen to incorporate them, as I have done below.]
Comments to the April 7, 2009 post entitled: Cussiní
Begin Comment 1 from Commenter One:
Uh, bud, didn't Paul call some people fools in his letters? How do square yourself up to that?
Also, what preacher man is cussin it up?
Posted 4/7/2009 1:27 PM by j
End of Comment
Begin Comment from Commenter Two:
So is it ok to use a certain word that begins with f and means sex or isn't it?
Posted 4/7/2009 2:39 PM by R
Begin Reply from C. W. Booth to Commenters One and Two
To J and R, I will reply to your posts tomorrow, as the hour is quite late at the moment.
Posted 4/8/2009 1:46 AM by C. W. Booth - reply
Continue Reply from C. W. Booth to Commenters One and Two
Words represent realities. The gospel message is just words. The words of the gospel represent the reality of Christ's redemptive work, and when people believe the words of the message, they place their faith in the real Christ and the real works He performed. The words are just symbols of the reality.
"Bad words" and "dirty words" when used alone (not when used as part of a curse against someone or something) to describe a pile of dung or an act of sex are still just words. But they represent a reality. When describing a sex act with the "f word" the speaker is depicting the dark reality of sinful sex, embracing it or approving of unlawful sex in a way that is demeaning to God, His Law, morality, and is disrespecting of wives and women. How is it not a sin to be intentionally disrespectful of God, morality, and wives?
As for using the "s word" in describing dung and manure, or in describing something as if it were dung and manure, again it is used a way of belittling, mocking, and showing disrespect. For example, "Your painting looks like dung" is showing intentional rudeness, intentional disrespect, and is intended to offend and rupture relationships.
That is not to say that every use of such words is always a sin, for again, they are just words. But if we ignore that God defines sin as also being attitude and motive in our speech (e.g. intention to harm or intention to cause conflict) then our use of such words often exposes such motives to the light day.
To engage the world for Christ does not mean we must speak as grossly or as insultingly as the unsaved, else, how will they see that holiness is any different than wickedness? Words do stand for reality.
Posted 4/9/2009 11:32 AM by C. W. Booth - reply
Begin Comment by Commenter Three
The motive and intention--very important. I read a little story about two pre-school boys. Jim loved his cars and trucks and his friend David and he were playing with them. David did something that made Jim very angry and he looked at David with his face red and ready to explode and said "You...you...you dump truck with the wheels off." Pre school swearing in my book.
Posted 4/10/2009 6:54 PM by d
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