Why Swearing (Even a Little) Is Still a Sin
You've probably seen the T-shirt or the meme that says, "I Love Jesus And I Cuss A Little! "It's meant to be cute or funny-- but is it really funny when you hold it up to the measuring stick of God's Word?
Cussing has become "cute" and something to laugh at. "Loosen up!" and "Don't be so legalistic!" are often the responses given if one is confronted about their speech.
In those situations, I feel frustrated. Then I begin to wonder if I’m wrong, if maybe swearing isn’t that big of a deal. But when I to go back to the Word of God, my resolve is strengthened that yes, what comes out of our mouthsdoes matter and is a big deal.
What Does the Bible Say about Swearing?
The Apostle Paul makes it clear what kind of speech Christians should use:
- "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace (or benefit) to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29
- "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving" Ephesians 5:3-4.
The Apostle Peter likewise urges Christians to be careful with their words.
- "For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech." 1 Peter 3:10
James, the brother of Jesus, makes it clear that the lives of Christians should not be characterized by evil speech and that it is uncharacteristic for a believer to have both praise and cursing come from her mouth:
- "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water." James 3:9-12
Why Do Our Words Matter So Much to God?
Our speech indicates what is going on in our heart. Merely eliminating words from our vocabulary will not take care of the problem. That would be like weeding a garden without digging deep and ripping up the roots. We need to go deeper and find out why those words are a part of our vocabulary in the first place. God's Word explains that what comes out of our mouth comes from what fills our heart. If our mind is saturated with God's Word, then our heart will be filled with him and what we say will be an outpouring of his good and loving Word.
Sin is a heart problem that is manifested in our thoughts, actions, and words. If we have put our faith in Christ we receive a new nature from God, our hearts are transformed, and our speech should reflect the new nature God has created within us. When we put our faith in Christ, his spirit becomes the filter by which all should be sifted through. He not only filters but he cleanses our heart. A clean heart should result in clean words. Our desires should change, not just our actions. If we are true believers and striving to honor God, we should not be characterized by using words that his Word clearly says we should not use, but we will be characterized by using words that honor God and give grace to those who hear them.
Do I Need to Stop Swearing?
If you are a believer you have been called to make the most of the time you are given. Every interaction you have with others should point others to God. It has never been more obvious than it is today that we are living in evil, evil days! Time is short. We do not know when the Lord will return and we are not promised that we see tomorrow. You have been called to be a light in this dark world and to glorify God. If you claim to love God, it should show in how you conduct yourself and in how you speak. Our love for him is shown by how much we obey the words that he has given us to follow. Our words and actions show whether or not our walk with God is real or worthless.
If you consider yourself to be a "mature believer" (like the “older woman” described in Titus 2), then you have been called to be reverent in your behavior and your speech. You will either honor or malign his Word. If your life revolves around things that matter to him, it will be obvious in how you speak. You will be a challenging, sharpening example.
How Do I Stop Swearing?
- Read and meditate on God's Word often. Allow it to renew your mind and purify your heart.
- Ask God to show you anything in your heart that is feeding the words that are coming out of your mouth that do not honor God.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to be your filter and to cleanse your heart so that life-giving words come out.
- Ask God to give you a fresh desire to speak what will give life to others.
- Replace a bad habit with a good habit – practice praising God out loud more often, training your tongue to speak words that build up, not tear down.
More Bible Verses on Wholesome Speech:
"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45
"What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Matthew 15:10
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15
"If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless." James 1:26
"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." Titus 2
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9
Gina Smith and her husband have served on a Christian college campus as the on-campus parents for over 20 years. They have lived on the campus where they homeschooled and raised both of their children. In her spare time she loves to write and recently authored her first book, “Grace Gifts: Practical Ways To Help Your Children Understand God's Grace." She also writes at her personal blog: ginalsmith.com.