Profane Language

This entry is part 4 of 98 in the series Inquiring Minds

Some Christians believe it is acceptable to swear/use profanity (excluding taking God’s name in vain). Is there a Biblical basis for this position, and if there is, how strong is the position?

Some people call it swearing or cussing. But when I think about swearing, I think of the ninth commandment about swearing in court, or bearing false witness (Exodus 20:16). But that concerns not telling lies under oath. The Bible talks about vows as well.

But you are talking about profanity, cussing, and foul language. We must be careful with the words that we use in the way that we speak. First, we are Christ’s representatives on earth. When people hear Christians using the kind of language that the world does, it does not bode well for our ability to witness. They don’t see a difference in us.

Beyond that, it is a matter of holiness to speak in a way that honors and pleases God. Some swearwords are cultural while others are universal. We must not take the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7).

What does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain? It is to use his holy name in a profane way. The Israelites would not even speak the name Yahweh and to this day we’re still not sure if we say it correctly. They were that careful.

We shouldn’t be speaking our Lord’s name as a swear word or to cover up a word we would use as a swear word. For instance, if you stub your toe or smash your thumb with a hammer, yelling the name of our Lord would be taking his name in vain.

Another example that my mentor shared with me is that when we identify with Jesus, calling ourselves Christians or Christ followers or followers of Jesus, we must act the part. Bearing his name and his image requires that we demonstrate the life Christ taught and died on the cross to give.

God has high standards for each of his children. We don’t have a license to speak however we wish. We bear the name of Christ. We must speak blessing instead of cursing (James 3:8-10). Although we cannot tame our tongue, the Holy Spirit can use our speech for God’s good.

We must take a serious look at our culture and make sure that we raise the bar of speech with those around us. We should not speak like our culture. The words used around us for swearing and foul speech must not cross our lips.

Paul mentions foul speech, filthy language, coarse and crude joking, and the type of language we should not use (Ephesians 5:4). Let us be the kind of people who are enjoyable to listen to when we speak. Let us encourage everyone around us and have the reputation of people who speak the blessing of Christ.

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