Profanity, curse words, expletives, bad words, and swearing. Regardless of how a person chooses to label these words, the use of profanity is widespread and controversial. People may swear only when they are angry or may utter expletives regularly in everyday conversations.
Generally, the media in recent years has become more favorable toward the use of cursing and many expletives have become more commonplace in society. Although the use of profanity may be widespread across cultures, the very definition of “profanity” indicates blasphemy.
Humans were given the ability and creativity to speak in communicable languages. This ability, however, has been negatively affected by the Fall of man and all humans have suffered the consequences.
Instead of creating words to bless God and build others up, mankind has added hostile and negative words into the human vocabulary. Scripture speaks against the use of foul language, curses, and misusing God’s name. Although the use of profanity is a strong and difficult habit, a person can break such a habit with the help of the Lord.
What Does the Bible Say about Cursing?
The use of profanity reaches far back in history, but the Bible speaks strongly against swearing. As Paul stated in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (NIV).
The Greek word for “unwholesome” can also be translated as “rotten, useless, corrupt, depraved” (Strong’s Greek: 4550). While this verse does speak against the use of swear words, unwholesome talk would include gossip just as much as profanity. The essence of the passage is that believers should speak helpful, not hurtful words.
In the next chapter in Ephesians, the Apostle Paul also warned against the use of “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place” (Ephesians 5:4). Just as anger and slander have no place in the Christian life, so also does the “filthy language” of swearing have no place on the lips of those who are followers of Christ (Colossians 3:8).
Instead of obscenity and cursing, believers should speak words of thankfulness in the name of the Lord and use their creative ability to sing hymns and songs of praise to their Savior (Colossians 3:15-17).
James, the half-brother of Jesus, rightly stated that words of blessing and cursing should not proceed from the same mouth, just as fresh and saltwater do not proceed from the same source (James 3:10-11).
A believer cannot bless God while cursing their fellowman. While unbelievers will continue to speak profanity, because they are still enslaved to the sin nature (John 8:34), believers in Christ have no excuse for speaking profane words that are harmful to others.
Misusing God’s Name and Minced Oaths
In addition to speaking against the use of profanity, Scripture also decries the misuse of God’s name. When using curse words, people often aggressively and hatefully condemn others using God’s name.
Also, people regularly use profanity with God’s name in everyday conversations. Despite the commonality of such use, the Lord’s name is to be revered and respected, not misused or profaned.
The Lord specifically instructed the Israelites to avoid profaning His name (Leviticus 22:32). Because God has provided salvation to all people, those who have received His grace should want to avoid misusing the name of their Lord and Savior (Titus 3:5).
Just as individuals should not profane the name of the Lord, they also should not take His name in vain (Exodus 20:7, ESV). Christ specifically related misusing God’s name in reference to taking oaths or swearing by the Lord (Matthew 5:34-37).
Vainly or emptily using God’s name is wrong and denounced in the Bible. Thus, saying “oh my God” as a fill-in word or phrase to utter when surprised is wrong. Also, using “Jesus Christ” as a curse word is just as bad as saying the f-word.
Even if believers are less tempted to use profanity or emptily misuse God’s name, there is still the problem of minced oaths, which are just as sinful as obscenities. Minced oaths are technically euphemisms, meaning they include misplaced or changed words to make them socially acceptable.
Developed in Victorian times, minced oaths continue to be used today in the form of “gosh,” “darn,” “heck,” or “jeez.” In these cases, “gosh” is just a fill-in for God, while “jeez” masks Jesus’ name.
So, when a person uses the word “gosh darn it” it is the equivalent of using the harsher language of strong profanity. Basically, minced oaths are equivalent to profanity and should not be used by Christians.
Overcoming the Habit of Cursing
Although profanity can become a strong habit for many people, Christians can break this enslaving habit with the help of the Lord. First, new believers should study Scripture to understand God’s view of profanity.
Many times, individuals who have recently been saved may not be aware that swear words are wrong and have no place in the Christian life. By studying Scripture, especially Ephesians 4 and 5 as well as Colossians 3, Christians can learn that swearing is not an attribute of a person who has new life in Jesus.
Next, Christians should be aware of situations that cause them to speak profanity. For many people, the use of curse words occurs during times of anger or injury. For others, cursing may be a regular part of conversations or music they engage and listen to.
Taking the time to think before speaking or impulsively saying the first words that come to mind can help curb the use of profanity (James 1:19).
Furthermore, since anger and swearing are both problems that stem from the heart (Matthew 15:11), believers who struggle with profanity should seek God’s forgiveness and help regarding these sins (1 John 1:9). Monitoring what enters one’s heart, through music or television, for example, can also help believers break their habit of swearing (Proverbs 4:23).
While taking steps to fight against the sin of profanity is important to do, believers must also be willing to give themselves and others grace. Christians are not perfect and will not achieve perfection during their present life on earth.
There is no promise that a person who struggles with swearing will never say a curse word again. However, the Lord loves His children and sees those who are trying to please Him, including those who are actively trying to honor Him with their speech.
Such believers will likely pray the following words regularly: “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3, NIV). All believers should strive for the words of their mouth to be pleasing to the Lord and to bring Him glory through their speech (Psalm 19:14; Colossians 3:17).
New Life, New Speech
Even so, profanity is common in the world, the use of swear words does not fit with the new life of those who have placed faith in Christ. Believers are new creatures, who have new identities that should impact the way they live, act, and communicate (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Scripture is clear about the use of profanity and discourages “filthy” or “foul” language. Such unwholesome talk, which is denounced in the Bible not only includes swear words but also taking God’s name in vain and minced oaths. Because Christians have a new life, they should steadily develop new speech patterns, which reflect their identity as children of God.
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.