Christians and non-Christians alike have asked me why I don’t cuss, and I have struggled to express my heart in the matter. I don’t want to make people feel censored or judged around me, but I know I have fallen short of accomplishing that task.
The Hard Questions
It is hard to address questions with biblical truth in a quick and casual conversation when your audience is already in disagreement with you. Try looking at the people you love and telling them why you disapprove of something they do without coming across as judgmental or unloving. Even if you accomplish that extremely hard task, you can still be disliked because of it.
Culture makes me seem increasingly outdated and irrelevant with crude language present on almost every show and movie we watch. Music is even sending mixed signals with Kanye West and other popular rap-artists producing what he calls “a gospel album with a whole lot of cursing on it.” The normalization of cussing in culture makes defending my case even harder.
Although it doesn’t justify any judgmental actions or behavior, I want to tell everyone how the Bible addresses cursing and how this has influenced my word choice.
Curse words can be hard to define due to rapidly changing culture and situational contexts, but Jared Wellman, pastor and writer for the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM), states, “It can be concluded that there are words that are purely crude or demeaning and are therefore unequivocally curse words.”
I am not merely against random words that have gradually come to be considered a “bad word” by culture. The words I am talking about are not only “culturally or socially unacceptable words, but any word that is used to demean another individual or express extreme dissatisfaction with a particular situation, especially when that dissatisfaction is directed toward God.”
They aren’t “just words.” We can all agree any word that is used to demean others or express extreme displeasure with the situations and life God has given us should carry more significance than other words. So, even if used unintentionally or in a moment of anger, the words we choose matter greatly.
The root of our problem:
I want to start at the root of the problem: our hearts. Whether it be social status, pleasure or wealth, we make decisions we know are wrong because we are placing the end result or feeling above God and anything He could give us.
At the Passion Conference, I watched John Piper explain the ultimate essence of evil as “the loss of taste for God as our all-satisfying life and joy, and the preference for other things above God himself.” We turn from God every day in the decisions we make but also the words we choose to say.
Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks:
Jesus presents us with a parable of a tree and its fruit to represent our hearts. He explains how “no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit” (Luke 6:43). Just like trees, “the good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
The words we choose to say are seen as an overflow of what is in our hearts. If Jesus tells us “each tree is known by its own fruit,” we are known by words that are produced by our mouths (Luke 6:44). By cursing, are we showing the love we have for God, people or the life He has given us? Are we becoming known for the goodness in our hearts?
Whether trying to fit in, get a laugh or express anger, the words we say carry a weight and are a direct reflection of our hearts.
Taming the tongue:
In James Chapter 3, our tongues are compared to rudders on ships. Although the ships are massive and are swayed by powerful winds, a small rudder is moved at the will of the pilot to control the ship’s direction. In the same way, “the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5).
The tongue is powerful and has the ability to steer us in a direction we may or may not want to be heading towards. The mouth is how “we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing” (James 3:9-10). Praising God one minute and criticizing His children the next, the tongue reveals our hypocritical nature as we praise God and curse others with the very same instrument.
James says what we all need to hear and never forget: “My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10). We ought not let praises and curses come out of the same mouth.
The new life:
In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul tells Christians “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Living life anew with a different spirit of our minds, we can and should turn from cursing God’s children and the situations He has given us.
If we have put on our new selves and decided to follow Jesus, we should “let no corrupting talk come out of [our] mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Let’s build up others. Let’s give grace. Let’s choose words that can accomplish those tasks.
I know many who don’t try to stop cursing because they think they can’t stop, and they are right. As James said, “no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8). We will never stop our behavior if we look to ourselves and our weak willpower to make the change. Quick to speak and quick to anger, we are unlikely change-makers. But, we forget it is through God’s power, not our own, that we are transformed.
It is only through the power and wisdom God gives that we can overcome the evil within us. We know Jesus “was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God,” but we often forget “we also are weak” and will only “live with him by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13:4). Our flesh and willpower are weak, but God’s power is limitless.
The words we utter reveal the untamable evil inside ourselves, but our imperfections and shortcomings only accentuate our need for Jesus as our Savior and God’s power to overcome what we are powerless against; “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).