This topic is adapted from the PursueGOD Men YouTube channel.
The topic of “cussing” (cursing/swearing) can be divisive for Christians. Some refuse to even utter cuss words, calling them sin and pointing to scriptures like Ephesians 4:29, 1 Peter 3:10, Colossians 3:8, and James 3:9-12. Others consider cussing an issue of freedom in Christ or even as a way to help relate to non-Christians and develop trust.
What about Freedom in Christ?
This question highlights our freedom and our holiness in Christ. On the one hand, Christ has set us free from the Law of Moses (Galatians 5:1). On the other hand, the freedom we have been given is freedom to live as God has truly called us to live. It is a freedom to live outside of sin’s grasp, not to do whatever we want.
In Matthew 5:22, Jesus warns against speaking badly against other people, and even equates it to murder. While doing so, He uses the Aramaic word “raca,” which was itself a kind of “cuss” word at the time. Jesus “cusses” in order to tell His listeners not to “cuss out” other people. Simply using a “cuss” word is not nearly as important as why we are using it, how, and toward whom. In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus says that the words that come out of us are a reflection of what resides in our hearts – the sentiments behind our words.
What Does the Bible Say?
Speaking badly about another person, even if you don’t use any four or five-letter words while doing it, is worse than spitting a cuss word if you stub your toe. A careful reading of Ephesians 4:29, 1 Peter 3:10, and James 3:9-12 shows that prohibitions on language are about how we speak to or about other people, not the precise words we use. Our language should build up others (Ephesians). Our speech should not be deceitful (1 Peter). Our words should seek the blessing and benefit, not the destruction, of those created in God’s image (James).
Colossians 3:8 is the only place in the New Testament that refers to “dirty” language as we generally think of it. It instructs us to get rid of “slander” and “dirty language.” “Slander” refers to “blasphemy” – speaking badly about God or others. “Dirty language” refers not just to words themselves, but to the concept of obscenity – it is entirely possible to be “obscene” without cussing. But the word also refers to language itself that implies obscenity. Certain words in English are widely considered vulgar or impolite in public company, and it is fair to argue that “dirty language” here can also refer to these words.
The Heart of the Matter
The Bible is far more concerned with how we speak to and about other people than it is with with the precise words we use while speaking. Nonetheless, Colossians 3:8 does instruct believers not to speak in obscenities, even if the obscenities are not directed at a person or meant to bring harm to someone.
If we are following Jesus, we are being gradually transformed to be more like Him as we grow closer to Him through prayer, worship, fellowship with other believers, and holding ourselves up to the mirror of God’s Word. So, too, will our language be transformed.
Written content for this topic by Daniel Martin.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Do you use swear/curse/cuss words? Explain.
- Kevin suggests that surrounding ourselves with fellow Christians who don’t cuss will help us tame our own tongues. Do you agree or disagree with him? Explain.
- Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Ryan suggests that these verses give Christians grounds to cuss around non-Christians because it may give them credibility to speak honestly and openly. Explain why you agree or disagree.
- Do you think Jesus cussed when He was around sinners in order to gain their trust? Explain.
- Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “What you say flows from what is in your heart.” How is this statement relevant to this discussion?
- Can you give an example of a situation in which using a cuss word would be appropriate? Explain.
- Do you think the way we speak falls under the lordship of Jesus in our lives? Explain.
- The Bible wasn’t originally written in English, so who decides if English words are “cuss” words? Explain.
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.