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What the Bible Says About Swearing and Profanity

Updated on August 20, 2016
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Cursing and swearing are commonplace in the world today. A lot of conversations are peppered with F*, B*S*, God, Jesus, Jesus Christ, and omg. These words are what the Supernanny would call “potty mouth” and it seems an apt description.There are a lot of words that also come close to swearing as well such as "darn," or "for goodness sake."

Many people use bad language to express strong emotions such as anger, hurt, and frustration without even realizing what they are truly saying. It is so prevalent around me that sometimes I find myself letting out a profane word go without thinking. Even Christians have become somewhat desensitized to profanity and accept it as the norm. Vulgar and offensive words that would have shocked and disgusted past generations of Christians and non-Christians alike do not even raise an eyebrow these days. Yet, our words are important to God and the people around us and can negatively impact our relationships.

Swearing is offensive

Most people, whether Christian or non-Christian, find swearing crude, rude, and offensive. I certainly do not want to hear references to stuff done in the bathroom and other body functions. The F* word is especially repulsive because it is a vulgar reference to what should be a special demonstration of love between married people. The meaning of the F* word has degenerated into a physical act purely for pleasure instead of a way two people show love to each other. The marriage bed is an honourable thing according to scripture (Hebrews 13:4) and should be treated with respect.

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Why people swear

There are many reasons why people chose to swear. One possibility is that they are using expletives to vent their anger and frustration with life. Some of this anger may end up being projected at other people. Sometimes people use other people as an excuse, stating that they swore because another person provoked them into it.

Some people may know that a person is uncomfortable with profanity and deliberately use it to hurt the other person and make them uncomfortable. Perpetrators of emotional abuse use profanity to abuse, control, and demean other people in situations such as domestic abuse.

Others, especially teens, use bad language to show off how cool and fearless they are. Going against the standards of good taste gives the teens a false feeling of being powerful, as if they were daring God to send down a lightning bolt. They rejoice that the skies stayed clear and they survived the situation intact.

Some Christians use profanity as a demonstration that they are not legalistic in their Christian walk. Instead, they are "free" to do whatever they want. In this case, they are free to be vulgar and use an expletive instead of “ouch” when something suddenly hurts them.

New Christians may struggle with profanity because they have heard and used it all of their lives. Swearing has become a habit that is easy to fall into when they are upset or want to emphasize a point. They may not even realize they had used bad language.

What the Bible says

If you look up the word swear in the Bible you will find that the word is usually used to refer to swearing an oath - something Jesus tells us not to do. The Bible teaches us to let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no.” The Bible does, however, have a lot to say about how we should speak and represent ourselves as Christians.

Our conversation is supposed to be wholesome and beneficial to others. Our words should only build up, encourage, and help others according to their needs (Ephesians 4:29-30). If our words are unwholesome, we grieve the Holy Spirit. Our religion is worthless if we do not keep a tight reign on our tongues (James 1:26). We should shun profane and vain babblings (2 Timothy 2:16) and avoid “filthy” communication (Colossians 3:8-10).

Swear words are often spoken in anger – uaually against another person. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister and calls them a fool is in danger of hellfire (Matthew 5:22). The word “Raca” used for “fool” can mean worthless, and was used by the Jews as an expression of contempt. The word root actually means “to spit.”

When people curse and mistreat us, we should respond by loving them and doing good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27-28). Worthless and foolish talk leads to goodless behaviour (2 Timothy 2:18). We must get rid of filthy language in our vocabulary (Colossians 3:8) and become new beings in Christ.

People tend to let profanity fly without even realizing what they are saying. Avoiding bad language takes mindfulness. We have to carefully consider what we are going to say before we speak.

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The names God, Jesus, and Christ

God wants to be treated with honor and respect. This is so important to God that the second commandment states that we should not take the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:6). In this context, the term “vain” means “empty. In the book of Ecclesiastes, vain also means useless, worthless, and a waste of time.

We often hear “God,” and “Jesus” used to express anger or frustration when someone cuts a person off in traffic or someone hits his thumb instead of a nail with a hammer. Swearing by using God’s name degrades Him to a powerless, empty state that denies His omnipotence. Misusing the name of God profanes and sullies it (Deuteronomy 5:11) and is sin. God will hold people accountable for the words they utter (Exodus 20:7, Matthew 12:36). Our religion is worthless if we do not keep a tight rein on our tongues (James 1:26). Guarding our tongues will keep us out of trouble (Proverbs 21:23)

The use of euphanisms

Sometimes people use substitutes such as "oh my gosh" instead of "oh my God" and think it is OK. Although the words are less harsh and maybe more acceptable to people, they are still just substitutes for actual swearing and should be avoided.

Concluding thoughts

As Christians, we are to focus on things that are honourable, just, pure, loveable, commendable and worthy of praise.

God promises that He will be with us if we pursue these things (Philippians 4:8-9). Our words should bless and not profane and degrade the world with potty talk. Let us put away profane words from our mouths (Colossians 3:8) and strive for wholesome speech.

© 2015 Carola Finch

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    Robert E Smith 2 years ago from Rochester, New York

    Hi Lambservant, I was about to say, "there's nothing wrong with saying, 'praise the Lord ...." but now I see what you're saying. Like saying, Boy Oh Boy! nice weather out!'" Good point!

  • Hannah David Cini profile image

    Hannah David Cini 2 years ago from Nottingham

    It seems to have become so normal to use horrible language in every day life, especially around children. I very much agree with all you wrote, great hub, thank you for sharing.

  • no body profile image

    Robert E Smith 2 years ago from Rochester, New York

    Keeping control of the tongue is hard on occasion. I was raised in a "religious" household that forbid "cursing" and yet it was not forbidden because of deference to God. It was merely a religious thing. So when I was grown, having no reason given me not to swear and say all manner of vileness, I began to do so. Then I received Christ as Savior and began to get conviction with each use of guttural speech. It was hard to stop swearing especially the Fword that was used so often it was the period after each sentence. The Scripture that did it for me was, "Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth." I made a commitment that any more words coming out of my mouth that did not glorify God were sin. My motto became "Let nothing go into my mouth or come out of my mouth that the Holy Spirit would not approve." Great article. Voted up and interesting and useful. Bob.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

    Carola, this message needs be heard at home and abroad. Thanks for underscoring our obligation to use wholesome speech.

  • Kiss andTales profile image

    Kiss andTales 2 years ago

    A great hub ! A good reminder that we all will be accountable .

    Notice !

    New World Translation Mt 12:36, 37 I tell you that men will render an account on Judgment Day for every unprofitable saying that they speak;37for by your words you will be declared righteous, and by your words you will be condemned.”

    Reference Bible Eph 4:29 Let a rotten saying not proceed out ofYOUR mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers.

    Mt 15:11 It is not what enters into a man’s mouth that defiles him, but it is what comes out of his mouth that defiles him.”

    Mr 7:15 Nothing from outside a man that enters into him can defile him; but the things that come out of a man are the things that defile him.”

    We are to be Christ like , we know that Jesus set the greatest example and we can copy him through words and deeds.

    We set our own record and future!

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image

    Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

    So right here and we should even in our anger force out words of blessings not cursing! Wonder how much less satan would tempt us if we always did that? I hate a filthy mouth and there is never any use for it.

    Up and shared.

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

    I think the F word has lost its original meaning. People use it in ways sometimes that don't apply to that meaning, however, it is one of the worst and I absolutely cringe when I hear it.

    So many people, Christians, say OMG without hesitation. Sometimes using God or Jesus' name flippantly, like "praise the Lord I found my shoe under the couch" is taking his name in vain, but not as a curse word. God's name is holy and we should use it with reverence, sincerity, and in situations that are not empty or shallow. This bothers me especially in the Christian bookstores where they put God or Jesus' name, a cross or fish symbol, or a scripture on a product to sell it like Breath mints, piggy banks, etc.

    I like the first comedian in that he's right when he talks about slamming your hand in the door something needs to come out. It's so instinctual to want to yell out something unclean or foul. We need to find something to yell out at times like that that won't be a cuss word. Great message here.

  • RonElFran profile image

    Ronald E. Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

    Good hub. For me the whole issue is settled by Ephesians 4:29. Almost by definition, profanity does not edify (quite the opposite) and certainly doesn't impart grace to those who hear. IMO, when Christians swear, it does great damage to their credibility - even people who swear themselves are taken aback when they hear those who self-identify as Christians do it.

  • Faith Reaper profile image

    Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

    Great hub here on watching the words that are coming out of our mouths! I try to be mindful as His Word does tell us to not allow any words such as those to come out of our mouths. You have me thinking on this, for I do say a lot, "My goodness, that is a lovely ..." but in no way do I mean it in an offensive way but more so in an enthusiastic manner or surprise. However, I so have some other things I say which I may need stop being they may just be along these lines and I just have not thought of them in this manner.

    Up +++ tweeting and pinning

    God bless you