Last week we began looking at how words that we use have meanings. This week we will continue that study as we look at some other commonly used cuss words and how God speaks of the things we are saying when we use them. Again, this is a very difficult thing to do because it is not my intention to write in a way that is offensive to anyone’s sensibilities. But in light of the coarsening of our culture, as well as how few, if any, are saying anything about this from a Biblical standpoint, I will endeavor to do this with candor as well as caution. As we did last week, we will not look at these things from a “you can’t say this” kind of attitude. What we are doing is looking at what Scripture says about what these words actually mean - and then ask ourselves the question whether using these words is a wise or godly thing for us to do.
One of the most commonly used cuss words in our day is the one that refers to the act of sexual intercourse. This word seems to be one that is gaining popularity more every year. Again most people use it as either an adverb or an adjective. It is used even as a response to someone when you are angry with them. My guess is that even non-christians are going to be pretty shocked to hear a believer use this kind of language. Even among those who are lost, this word is referred to with its first letter and the word bomb attached to it. That is most likely because when used, it has the effect of a kind of verbal explosion. When this word is used in a setting where two people are arguing with one another - there is a fair chance a fight will break out. Again, those who use it simply state that it is a word - but even then some shrink from using it because it can cause problems when used.
How does God view sexual intercourse - or at least someone referring to it when speaking to others. If referring to sexual immorality, the Word of God is very clear about this word. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, we are to abstain from sexual immorality, learning how to possess our sexual desires in a way that honors God. In an even more strident text, we read in Ephesians the following admonition, “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;” (Ephesians 5:3). If God wants us to abstain from the act - and calls us not even to name immorality and impurity - one would think it is not a stretch to see that speaking such things flippantly and in anger would be unwise and would grieve God. Verses 5 and 6 of this same passage go even further stating that those involved in immorality are guilty of idolatry. Paul goes as far as to warn the Ephesians against being deceived with empty words about this - because the wrath of God would come on those who are the sons of disobedience. Colossians 3 reiterates the same thing as well. In addition to calling us not even to name such things among us - God also states in Hebrews 13:4 that the marriage bed is something holy and is to be held in honor. The writer of Hebrews warns that God will judge both fornicators (sex among unmarried people) and adulterers (sex involving someone having intercourse with someone who is not their husband or wife). This is how God views sexual intercourse itself - let alone the slang word for it regardless of whether it is in a marriage or being entered into by fornicators and adulterers.
God gave us sex. It is something that was given to married couples as a gift from God. As such, God treats it with honor and respect. He considers it something holy - and not to be spoken of without a sense of reverence for what He has given us. Unfortunately sin has taken something God intended to be holy, and made it something perverse outside of the marriage of a man and a woman. Discussion of such things should be in the context of God’s gift - in the context of marriage - and not for use as a cuss word that our culture seems to be saying every few minutes. It has degenerated into a word used to insult people and to cut them down. One aspect of this that I’ve seen again and again is that this is turning into an angry word - to be used when people are frustrated, mad, and often in the midst of a raging fit. When I get around someone who uses this word with great regularity, it is as if they have lost the concept of how to modify another word except by using this word perversely. It is also one that unfortunately has come to dominate our military. Often I’ve heard it used by those in the military and in films depicting our armed forces with a regularity that makes me cringe. The excuse that is bantered about is that this is just the way that soldiers talk. I find that sad - and an indictment against what I see as a false view of manhood. Unfortunately too many have bought into this with the result that boys who learn to cuss pick up this word and use it thinking it somehow makes them more of a man when they do. Nothing is further from the truth. A real man is one who has learned to control his anger and his language for the good of others around him. I’ll speak more of this in another article.
As I close this article I want to say that my study has led me to believe that this type of speaking is something that deeply grieves God. It is also something that because of its flippant use has cheapened what God meant to something incredibly personal as well as valuable. I’ll end this article with one last comment on the use of this cuss word. It is one that, when used, really damages the testimony of a believer. It is quite a statement when we see even the lost cringe when a believer speaks like this. They inherently know that someone who knows and loves Jesus is someone who puts away talk like this. Too bad that many in the church have so bowed to our culture that they don’t even get this any longer. May God once again teach us restraint and godliness in our speech.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been writing about the issue of cussing. Once again I am not doing this because I’m wanting the position of Language Policeman. My concern over this came because of two things I’ve noticed. The first was a coarsening of our culture in this area. It is fascinating and heart-breaking to watch our culture continue to decline in how they speak. But what is more heart-breaking is watching the church follow the culture down a similar path. It wasn’t more than 5 or 6 years ago that I was told of a new thing among some evangelical preachers and teachers. That phenomenon was that men were beginning to cuss from the pulpit as they preached and taught. What was even more disturbing to me was that the younger generation loved these guys - and looked up to them. Honestly - I remember being horrified at the time - and still am horrified at the thought of cursing in the midst of Bible teaching and preaching. But the second thing that grabbed my heart was a gradual coarsening of my own heart in some ways. Words that I would not have used 10 years ago, began to make their way into my own conversation. That hit harder than anything else. That is what led me to do two things. First I repented and returned to the Lord - especially in the area of how I speak. Second, was a study of the Scriptures in this area so that I could begin renewing my mind with the Word. It was my desire that this renewal would lead to a change in my choices that would lead to speaking in way that glorified God at all times.
This week I am going to have to dance dangerously close to edge without going over it myself. But there is a reason why I feel the need to do this. One of the arguments I hear again and again about cussing is that these are just words. They are no different than any other words. The argument continues that the only reason we consider these things “cuss” words is because of how others have defined them. Therefore, the argument goes, we should be able to use these words like any other words. Their only stigma comes from people with dirty minds who impose their idea that the words are “perverse” in the first place. It is my desire this week to show that these arguments are bankrupt. Scripture will help us to see this as we look at how God views this issue. I will warn you in advance that I will not use the curse words themselves - but will have to imply what some of them are. I apologize in advance to anyone who may be offended by the implications. I only do this to help people see the bankruptcy of those who think that such words actually don’t have meanings that should place them in the category of being indecent and perverse.
One of the more commonly used cuss words refers to defecation or the solid waste that we eliminate after our food is digested. It is used as an exclamation alone - as well as uses of it as an adjective, or as a perverse comment made in various situations. Does God have anything to say about our eliminated waste? Granted, this is not exactly a common Bible study topic - but it might shock you to hear what God has revealed on this matter. In Deuteronomy 23:12-14 God reveals this about Himself. ”You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement. Since the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you.” I remember reading this each year I read through the Bible - because it reminded me that God considers excrement (and I would remind you that this cuss word means excrement) something to be covered as well as something indecent. So if God, as a holy God made it a point to tell His people about this, where do you think He would stand on shouting such a reference to it as an exclamation or as an adjective to describe something or someone. As I honestly wrestle with the text and meaning of Scripture, I have to say that this word is not just a word WE defined as perverse. God revealed it to be something indecent to be covered so that His holiness was not offended. In Nahum 3:6 God uses another Hebrew word for excrement in reference to a severe judgment He was going to bring upon Ninevah for their sins. We read there this statament, "I will throw filth on you And make you vile, And set you up as a spectacle.” The word “filth” is the Hebrew word “shiqquts” which refers to human waste. Elsewhere this word means the following things: abomination or something detestable. Here God speaks of this being a severe judgment on Ninevah that made this city “vile” and set her as a spectacle among all the nations. Brothers and sisters in Christ - God does not think highly of human waste or excrement. And I believe it is not a stretch at all for us to conclude that He is not pleased when we use a more crass reference of this in our speech. It IS a word - and it does have a meaning - and its meaning refers to something perverse and indecent. Therefore - based on meanings - and on God’s reference to this word in Scripture - we should refrain from using it except in the context of our natural biological process of waste removal.
If I can quickly dispatch of a whole different set of words, let me do so without a great deal of commentary. It is also common for people to refer to the urination process to express their state of anger. God made these biological processes for elimination of waste. But from what we’ve seen God refers to them as waste - and as indecent things that are to be covered and done privately. That is why things like public urination or defecation are considered crimes and people are arrested when they do such perverse and indecent things. We have restrooms where these things are done privately. They are constructed in such a way that our waste is removed from sight afterwards. If this is how we deal with the fact of what they are, is it weird to come to the conclusion that the slang words used for such things are not to used as words we use in conversation? Why is it that we descend to the level of speaking like the world system in this way? Could it be because we have lost something very valuable to us as believers?
God speaks about His holiness when He refers to these things in Deuteronomy 23. Seeing these things openly was an offense to His holiness. Treating them other than how He directed grieved Him as He walked among them to defend them and give them victory. Could it be that we’ve lost our sense of God’s holiness in this generation? In a rush to make God more “relevant” to our culture we may have lost something of infinite value to us - His holiness. Could it be that we have become more sensitive to a world that disregards the holiness of God (evidenced by their unwillingness to honor Him or give thanks (Romans 1:18-21) than we are to the God Who has revealed Himself to us as the Holy One? It is a truly insidious thing when we no longer covet being a holy people who honor God by being separate and different than the world around us. But an even more horrible thought that this is that we’ve become deadened to Him walking among us. Are we aware that God is present at all times - in every situation - every phone call - every conversation - everything we hear and say? We don’t speak and use words in a spiritual vacuum. It is not as if there are places where God doesn’t have a microphone - and where He is uninterested in what we say. He is omnipresent - He is everywhere in His holiness and majesty at all times. There is no place or time He is not infinitely present. And . . . He hears everything and will judge us according to every word that we speak. That is truly awesome - as well as truly terrifying. Do we not value His protection, His infinite ability to give us victory, and His presence in our lives?
Dear precious saints of God . . . I end this article reminding you that I am not now - nor have I ever been assigned the role of being the “word-police.” But I want to leave you with this thought. Let’s move away from arguing about whether we are relevant enough to the world or not. Yes, it is in issue - but in light of what we are seeing happen around us in the church, I think there is an even more important issue that demands our attention. Are we relevant to God? What I mean by this is that we need to be concerned about His views more than those of our culture around us. We can BE RELEVANT to our culture without adopting the way they talk. We don’t have to embrace perversity or indecency to reach people. In fact I think that when they hear us - and don’t hear foul language - we become a “good” kind of different. This is not a call to “bust” the lost when they cuss around us. They are lost - and that is why they speak and act like they do. But we are saved - saved from sin and saved from the dominating power of the world system around us. We are called to be different. We are called to be aliens and strangers in this world. We are told that when we embrace God’s holiness - they will wonder why we don’t rush into the same dissipation and ungodliness they do. Some will even malign and persecute us because we embrace holiness above worldliness. We should speak and act as those who love the Lord. We should speak and act as those who have been delivered from sin - and from sinful ways of speaking. We should do this because we desire to honor the holy God who walks among us - and is in us. THE MOST VALUABLE THING IS HIS PRESENCE AMONG US. Oh that He will work in us so that we endeavor to speak in a way that honors and respects His holiness - as well as in a way that recognizes His Lordship over every conversation we engage in every day we live.
Last week we began to answer the question, “What does God say about cussing?” It is an interesting subject considering the coarsening of our culture over the last couple of decades. But it is also a subject that can easily turn into a majoring on the minors. That is why last week we began by seeing that whatever words come out of our mouths verify what is in our hearts. God makes it clear from the Scriptures that He desires for Christ to rule our hearts. We also see that He wants the Word of God to dwell richly within us (Colossians 3) and for the Word of God not to depart from our mouth (Joshua 1:8). That is why we should honestly consider the words that we allow to flow from us as we speak. We want those words to represent Jesus Christ in a way that brings glory to God. When those words do not - it is NOT a matter of words just being words, or of a difference between the way we talk in the world versus the way we talk at church. There is definitely something in our hearts that results in this kind of language flowing from our hearts.
I want to make one important distinction before I continue this week’s article. The things I am writing here are for believers. It is of little or no value for us to convert a person’s speech without seeing them brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Our purpose as believers is not to become the speech police. We are living in a post-Christian culture in the United States and it concerns me that some believers are far more interested in converting the culture than they are seeing people genuinely converted to Christ. It would be more comfortable for us if the culture followed a set of rules on speech and cussing that conformed to the Christian world view, but that would only benefit us. What we should pray and work for is to see people truly converted to Christ. Therefore as I write these things, I am writing to those who know Jesus Christ. The issues being addressed here are issues of our transformation and sanctification. We are talking about holiness - and having a life that is radically different from the world around us. We are to live lives that draw people to Christ - when they see lives of purity, godliness, and a goodness that makes them desirous of knowing why we live like we do. So please know that this is not meant to be a tirade against the prevailing culture and the world system. It is meant to be a rebuke for the church that we’ve so adopted the culture around us when it comes to our speech and words. It is also meant to be a call to return to godly, holy lives and words that will attract others to the beauty of Christ within us - all to the glory of God.
One of the arguments that I hear commonly used to justify using bad language is that these are just words that “people” have turned into bad words. When that is said, it is said without a knowledge of the actual meanings of the words used - or the interesting things that are being said when using them. One of the things I learned from my parents is that most people cuss because they are either ignorant or angry. What was meant by that was this. The use of cuss words is primarily as adjectives or modifiers. Next time someone cusses around you - think about what they are actually saying. It actually is a very ignorant use of the English language. There are times when I hear someone truly unleash a string of these words that I wonder if they even know any adjectives - or if cuss words have come to replace modifiers in our current culture. The other part of that statement refers to the fact that many use this kind of language when they are angry. Their anger is expressed in using cuss words to denigrate the person or thing with which they are angry. Now, before you shrug your shoulders and wonder if I am a Bible teacher or an English teacher, let me get to my point. Cussing is a “perversion” of the English language. Each of these words are just words . . . but they are words that have a meaning to them. When we use them in the context of cussing, I can guarantee you that they are used in a way that has nothing to do with what they actually mean. Thus the one using them is speaking in a way that was described in earlier days as “perverse.” With that in mind let’s look at a few passages of Scripture.
The Bible has a lot to say about those with a “perverse mouth” or who use “perverse language.” In Proverbs 6:12, we read these words, “A worthless person, a wicked man, Is the one who walks with a perverse mouth.” Here we have a person with a perverse mouth. The terms used to describe this person are that he is worthless and wicked. The word worthless is the Hebrew word “belial” which means, “good for nothing in a moral sense.” What is fascinating is this word also appears in the Greek New Testament in its Greek form as a name for the devil. This is not exactly the association I want with the words I speak. The second word, wicked, is “aven” which means trouble, sorrow, evil, and often speaks of those who pursue iniquity and sin. Therefore the one who speaks with a perverse mouth is speaking in a way that is very ungodly.
In Proverbs 8:13 we read these words, "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate.” God is saying here what the fear of the Lord does in life. We find the usual things here of having evil, pride, arrogance, and the evil lifestyle. But at the end we find that the fear of the Lord also hates the “perverted mouth.” If we fear God we will not pervert words - or speak in a perverted way.
In Proverbs 17:20 we read how the one, “who is perverted in his language” often finds with that type of speaking a habit of falling into evil. Here is the text of that verse, “He who has a crooked mind finds no good, And he who is perverted in his language falls into evil.” Speaking as one who used to talk this way often before I was saved, I can confidently say that speaking this way never led me into righteousness or toward those who love the things of God. When I spoke that way in anger I can absolutely tell you that it led to me falling into evil. Consider this - and please be honest - have you ever felt that speaking in a perverted use of language led you closer to the Lord?
Proverbs 19:1 says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity Than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.” Speaking with a perverse use of language makes you look like a fool. I know the world has come to the point of valuing this kind of speech. It makes you look tough and more worldly. The opposite is true when you embrace a life of following and seeking after God. The Lord is the One I want to honor and impress - and He feels neither honored or impressed with someone who has a foul mouth. I heard of a time when a group of brothers who sought the Lord together were talking about the things of God when one of them used a cuss word in expressing himself. The whole atmosphere in the room changed - and things got awkward. It just was not appropriate. Not that there is a place where it is appropriate - because God is present in all conversations. The idea was that this was brothers speaking of their faith and wanting to help one another grow. Please understand that this was not a matter of judging the brother who spoke. I’ve often been in groups where newer believers were getting their start - and - there were times when flesh came out and growth was needed. You may hear that kind of language in the world regularly - but you hope the perverted mouth is something we want to lay aside as we grow in Christ.
One last passage is Proverbs 10:31-32 which says, “The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out. The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.” Here we see a contrast of the mouths of the righteous and the wicked. The wicked have perverted tongues and mouths. Their words are perverse. The righteous in contrast allow their mouths to “flow with wisdom” and to “bring forth what is acceptable.” Our goal, saints, is not to act and sound as much like the world as possible. Our goal should be to speak what is right and wise - especially among the lost. They know how their own speak and talk. We are to be different.
Saints, I want you to know that it is not my desire to be your personal “Holy Spirit word monitor.” But it is my purpose to help us grow into people who first of all love the Lord and fear Him, and second of all surrender to God’s sanctifying work in our lives every day. Perverse words are not a part of God’s plan in sanctification. He wants to purify our hearts - which should result in a purifying of our speech as well. I long for all of us to be wise. It should be clear from what we’ve read again and again in God’s book of wisdom (Proverbs) that a perverse mouth is something we need to lay aside as we learn to walk closer with the Lord. May we all become people whose speech is gracious, kind, wise, and winsome - so that those who hear us speak know that there is something markedly different about our hearts. May that work give us ample opportunity to tell others about the One who changed our hearts - and in so doing - changed the way we speak as well.
One of the things that I have noticed over the years I have lived in this world is that there has been a coarsening of our culture over the years. No where is this more apparent than in the way that we speak and the words we choose to use. There has been a downgrade in the language that is acceptable in common discourse. Words that would have brought a conversation to a stand still by the shock they caused are now used with little thought or concern. What I refer to is the common use of curse words – or what might be described as inappropriate language in times past. What does God think about “cussing?” That is what I hope to address over a series of articles – and more importantly – a study of Scripture.
The first thing we need to address in this study is whether or not God considers certain words to be “curse” words – or whether this is just a manifestation of changing cultural norms. Over the years I’ve heard the argument that words are just words. We are the ones who assign things like meaning or bad connotations to certain words. Over time language evolves. We are just watching what our “culture” finds acceptable changing. This is not a biblical issue, it is a cultural one. We are watching the acceptability of words morph just a culture itself morphs around us. Even some of the more popular evangelical preachers of our day are changing with the times – and some even use some of these words in sermons. We should just chill out and not make mountains out of mole hills. The important thing is that we communicate the gospel to our culture. To make this an issue is going to cloud the issue with little more than a legalistic attempt to control how people talk.
What does God think about our words – or even about certain words in general? I do not think we would have much argument that the use of God’s name in vain is definitely a use of words that God forbids. I would venture that we will never find God “evolved” enough by our modern mind set to accept those words as anything other than blasphemy. So we can begin our study of unacceptable words with a look at Exodus 20:7. God said, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7 (NASB)
God made it clear that using His name vainly is a very serious offense. He makes it clear that one will not be left “unpunished” if he does this. Thus it is established as a biblical standard that the use of God’s name – Father, Son, or Holy Spirit – in a vain way is sin. It is hard for me to give examples – because doing so violates this very commandment and God-given standard. So forgive me for not going there. I think we all know how God’s name is used in vain. Also people say, “Jesus Christ,” as an exclamation that in no way refers to His person, work, or praise. This is sin. These words are bad, evil, sinful words. We are not to consider them acceptable to use in our own conversation – or allow them in our exclamations (i.e. what we say when we hit our thumb with a hammer – or someone cuts us off in traffic). So we’ve established that this is not just a cultural matter, it’s a biblical one. At least it is with God’s name. But what about other words?
Before I get to the point of examining other ways of using foul language, I want to go deeper. There are much more important issues for us at work here than just a list of seven words you should or shouldn’t say in public – or around women and children. In fact that very statement is in error. But before I digress into that issue, we need to look at what the Bible has to say about our mouths and our tongues. When the Scriptures address either of these, God is not referring to our physical features. He is referring to the words that are formed with them – and even more importantly – what is being expressed by our heart with our words.
Jesus said some absolutely fascinating words about . . . well, about our words themselves. He said, “For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. Luke 6:44-45 (NASB) Jesus here is speaking about what kind of things are filling our hearts. He does so in reference to a tree being known by its fruit. What is amazing here is that He eventually says, “. . . for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
What Jesus is saying is that just as a tree is known by its fruit, so we also can know by the words that a man speaks is very telling about what it is that he treasures in his heart. Words that are spoken are what you might call “heart-fruit.” As I read and studied what Jesus said I was very convicted as to what it is that comes out of my mouth. This issue here goes way beyond “cuss words” and whether some words are unacceptable or not. My heart is expressing itself every day in the words that come out of my mouth. When people experience my “heart-fruit” with their ears, what impression is left as to the heart that is speaking in this way? Even more importantly, as I speak before God (for He is present with me at every conversation – even those within my heart no one hears) is He honored – or shamed by my conversation? This is very important and sobering stuff that we are dealing with when we look at the words we speak, isn’t it?
In Luke 6, quoted above, Jesus uses the picture of treasure in our hearts to help us understand our words. These words are formed and thought out at a heart level (even when we don’t think we are thinking about what we say). They come out in our speaking because they constitute the treasure of our hearts. Thus, as we finish our first installment on “What Does God Say About Cussing?” we need to consider a very interesting question. What are you treasuring in your heart? You determine this by your choices each and every day. God tells us that the blessed man treasures the Word of God in his heart. He takes the time to know it – memorize it – and think deeply about it (which is meditation). As the man or woman of God does this they are protected from sin and brought into the intimate counsel of God Himself. Oh, and there is one more wonderful benefit to treasuring the Word in our hearts. It transforms our heart-fruit in the process. And in time everyone around us notices that by a very conspicuous change in the words we use as we speak.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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