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Profanity and the Bible

Updated on September 13, 2018
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I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

Language Not Worthy of God's People

In today's world we are bombarded by profanity. Things that people weren't allowed to say on television or in the movies a few years ago are now common words spewed out like a backed up sewer, all over the place, in all forms of media. You probably cannot go to most movies anymore, unless they are specifically made for children, without hearing language you'd previously only hear at a bar, or on a Naval base.

In many places in society, it is now common to hear these words. Also, we used to expect them mainly from men. However, now it seems that nearly as many women use foul language as their male counterparts.

I. Defining Profanity

When talking about profanity, also called cussing or cursing, most of us have an idea of the kind of language to which we are referring. It can be defined as blasphemous or obscene language; a swear word or oath. Another dictionary defined it as abusive, vulgar or irreverent language. It is interesting that the word profane, from which we get profanity, means "of or relating to that which is not sacred, secular." And to profane something is to treat it with abuse, irreverence or contempt. It means to desecrate something. And that is exactly what we are doing with the words of our mouth when we use this kind of language. It is useless empty talk that shows a marked contempt for God and for all that is holy.

It is odd that this kind of language is sometimes labeled as "adult", just as pornographic movies are labeled "adult". What is adult about either one? They both take wonderful things given to us by God, (language and sex), and use them in degrading ways.

I'm not just referring to the use of the Lord's name in vain, which all of us who have read the ten commandments know to be a sin. Most of us know that this dishonors God and makes His name like something profane, rather than holy. Along with this, I am including all the words that we use that simply don't do anything to build up the person who hears. And of course it includes the foul words that I cannot repeat here, or I'd be guilty of the thing I'm writing against.

But speaking of using the Lord's name, we have ways of getting around this command as well. We use take-offs of the Lord's name, such as geez for Jesus and gosh for god. It is just a "polite" way to do something that is condemned in Scripture. Christians need to think carefully before speaking and try to remove these things from their vocabulary.

II. Jesus and Profanity

Jesus had a lot to say about our words. He tells us that the words which come out of our mouth indicate the condition of our heart. Our Lord said this when speaking to the Pharisees:

"You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:34-37).

III. Paul and Profanity

For those who don't know the Lord Jesus Christ, we would expect them to say words that are unwholesome. It is part of their heart, for they have an old sinful nature. But Christians, who have a new heart, have no excuse for doing this. They have the power of the Holy Spirit living in them to overcome their foul mouth.

The Apostle Paul commands believers to stop the profanity. In Ephesians 4:29 he tells us:

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."

Also, in the book of Colossians Paul associates profanity with the old nature. He says this:

"But now also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds. And have put on the new man, which is renewed in the knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Colossians 3:8-10).

Conclusion

For the Christian the Bible is clear. Profanity is language that is not worthy of the child of God. And if you are guilty of it, then it is a sin that needs to be confessed and abandoned. Of course, for those who don't know the Lord Jesus Christ, the first step in getting rid of such language is to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and ask Him to cleanse you from all the sin that separates you from a Holy God.

Once you are saved, you have to ask the Lord's help to clean up your act. If you are having trouble with this sin then you might consider praying Psalm 19:14 every morning before you get out of bed:

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer."

Cleaning up your act might include not hanging out with old friends that curse, and not going to movies that you know are full of profanity. It might entail paying attention more to what you read or look at on the Internet or television. Anything that can reinforce your tendency to curse, or use profane language should be off limits.

Whatever it takes, it is time to get rid of the language in our lives that is unworthy of a child of a holy God. May our speech begin to truly reflect what God is doing in our hearts.

© 2012 Jeff Shirley

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    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      5 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      Thanks for reading and for your comments.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      5 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I think you got to the nub of the matter when you spoke of using words that degrade rather than build up. Good discussion.

    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      6 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      You're welcome! And thanks as usual for stopping by.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      6 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      "Things that people weren't allowed to say on television or in the movies are now common words spewed out like a backed up sewer, all over the place." I like that. Word pictures can be so strong. Thanks for putting this one down.

    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      6 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      Hyphenbird: Words are indeed quite powerful and we can destroy someone with them if we aren't careful. We all need to be aware of what we say and how we say it.

      MsDora: Thanks for reading and God bless you.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Very good, very clear admonition. Thanks for reminding us or our obligation to represent our faith in our words.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      We are told that words have power enough to change the course of a ship, a life. Therefore it is indeed very important that we use speech wisely. Even to waste words and breath with idle and worldly pursuits is foolish. Your Hub is spot on and I hope gives many Christians, including myself, a new commitment to speaking in a Godly manner.

    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      6 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      Thanks for clarifying. It makes it much easier to understand what you mean. God bless.

    • sandonia profile image

      sandonia 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for the response. I have actually summarized the whole conceptual framework into two simple concepts -- usage and context. When connected with the biblical principles you point to above, these concepts are easily applicable.

      For example, when communicating a-okay to a Brazilian friend, don't use the American hand sign for okay because it has a vulgar meaning in Brazil. This is being mindful of the context and applying Eph. 4:29.

    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      6 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      That indeed was a long explanation and one that most people will not understand, I'm sure. But my point is, there are words which everyone agrees are not that which should be used in polite company, or any other for that matter. When God commands us to do things, you usually don't need a degree in philosohy in order to know how to follow them. He usually uses commands that most anyone can understand, and I believe that is the case here.

      I believe that you're overthinking something that really is quite easy to understand. If we followed your advice, none of us would know how to follow this or any other command. We'd be analyzing it to see if it really means what it seems to plainly say.

    • sandonia profile image

      sandonia 

      6 years ago

      I was making an important distinction between "word as form" and "word as meaning." The "word as form" refers to the shape of a word. This shape could be phonemes, written letters, hand signs, morse code, or clicks on a telegraph. The "word as meaning" refers to the actual idea.

      Christians too often confuse "word as form" and "word as meaning" as being one in the same. If "word as form" and "word as meaning" are one in the same, then there would be two interesting consequences. First, no word would have more than one meaning. Second, as a consequence of the first, no ambiguity would exist at the word-level. Yet, we can clearly observe that a word can have multiple meanings and that ambiguity often exists.

      This conceptual framework also creates a problem in the application of biblical principles to communication through the medium of words. It is possible to communicate something bad through using so-called "good" or "clean" words. A good example of this are the abundant lists on the Web of hockey expressions which "sound dirty." This, it is a mistake to under "word as form" and "word as meaning" to be one in the same.

      That said, we must recognize that "word as form" and "word as meaning," while sometimes related, do not maintain a necessary relationship. The "word as form" can be related to many different "word as meaning." This is easily observed by thumbing through a dictionary. Further, the "word as form" is value neutral. This can be demonstrated by considering the "word as form" cat. Is the "word as form" cat good or bad? It is neither good nor bad. The very idea of the "word as form" cat being good or bad is nonsensical. It is what philosophers will call a category error.

      On the other hand, "word as meaning" may or may not be value neutral. "Word as meaning" receives its value from the usage and context. That is, how a "word as meaning" is used and the context in which a "word as meaning" is used determines the whether or not the "word as meaning" has value and whether or not the value is good or bad. For example, if I were to call a friend a "stupid head" in a teasing manner it would be value neutral. However, if my child were to call me a "stupid head" out of anger it would bad. The usage and the context determine the value and whether that value is good or bad. From the above, it should be clear that neither "word as form" nor "word as meaning" have a necessary value, and any value is derived from the usage and context.

      This turned out to be longer than anticipated, but I believe the distinction being made is important. It is important so that we can adhere to both the letter and the spirit of the law being described in Scripture. It's not words which are bad. It's how we use them and in what context we use them.

    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      6 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      Words have meaning. If they didn't we would not be able to communicate. The value is given them by the society that speaks the words. If a word means one thing to you and another thing to me then, once again, we aren't communicating. Communication comes from me saying something to you and you understanding exactly what I mean. Thus words cannot be value neutral.

      If what you are saying is correct, then we couldn't obey the Scripture that says to let no profane word proceed out of our mouths. What is profane to me, might not be profane to anyone else. There are certain words that will always be profane in any language.

    • sandonia profile image

      sandonia 

      6 years ago

      We, Christians, have a tendency to view certain words as bad. This is a mistake. Words are value neutral. That is, words are neither good nor bad. They are simply signs and cannot be profane in and of themselves. We must look to usage and context to determine what is and is not profane language.

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