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Is Cussing a Sin?


Is cussing a sin? I don’t see it in the Bible.

Steve Answers:

Cussing is a form of swearing. When people use a cussword, it’s usually to express something negative. Every language has its own cusswords. Typically they have something to do with sexuality (private body parts, crude intercourse, or excrement/waste) or condemnation (sometimes calling out to God to do it).

I’ve noticed that some people cuss as a way to "be cool." It gets attention and shows disdain for authority figures who disapprove of vulgar language.

When I was young I went through a period of wanting people to think of me as something apart from a "goody-goody Christian." So I learned a few cusswords and used them in nearly every sentence. After a short time people no longer thought of me as a Christian.

The reason people don’t associate a foul mouth with Christianity is found in Galatians 5:16-26. Verse 16 reads, "I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves."*

Another form of "swearing" is to condemn something, often calling for God to do it. Instead of saying it directly to his enemies, David poured out his anguish to God. Check out these verses from Psalm 69.

Verse 24 says, "Pour out your fury on them; consume them with your burning anger." Verse 27 says, "Pile their sins up high, and don’t let them go free." Verse 28 says, "Erase their names from the Book of Life; don’t let them be counted among the righteous."

When talking about swearing, often people appeal to the third commandment: "Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name" (Exodus 20:7).

How do you misuse God’s name? Some think it’s using swear phrases, such as "Oh, my God" or "Oh God" or "God," or saying with disgust or exasperation, "Jesus Christ." Others think it means being a Christian, but being a hypocrite about it.

Another form of swearing is people making a statement and adding, "I swear." Jesus warned against this. He said, "Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Your word is enough. To strengthen your promise with a vow shows that something is wrong" (Matthew 5:37).

You asked if cussing was a sin and about whether or not it’s in the Bible. It can be vulgar and in poor taste. And yes, it’s in the Bible. David seemed to do it in releasing anger and pain to God instead of to others. But Jesus said to use simple speech rather than adding more emphasis through swearing.

If you’re in the habit of cussing or swearing and want to break it, you can. Praying puts you in touch with supernatural power. Enlarging your vocabulary is a way to build an arsenal for articulating your perspective. And holding your tongue before repeating filthy words enables you to come up with more wholesome phrases so you won’t need to cuss or swear. 

*Scripture quotations in this column are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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