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.