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What the Bible Says About Swearing and Profanity

Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other related topics.


Cursing and swearing are commonplace in the world today. Many conversations are peppered with F*, B*S*, God, Jesus, Jesus Christ, and omg. These words are what the TV reality show Supernanny would call “potty mouth,” and it seems an apt description. Other terms also come close to swearing such as "darn," or "for goodness sake."

The Use of Euphemisms

Sometimes people use substitutes such as "oh my gosh" instead of "oh my God" and think it is OK. Although the words are less harsh and may be more acceptable to people, they are still just substitutes for actual swearing and should be avoided.

Even Christians have become somewhat desensitized to profanity and accept it as the norm. It is so prevalent around me that sometimes I find myself letting out a profane word without thinking.

Vulgar and offensive words that would have shocked and disgusted past generations of Christians and non-Christians alike do not even raise an eyebrow these days. Yet, our words are important to God and the people around us. They can negatively impact our relationships.


Why People Swear

There are many reasons why people choose to swear.

Swearing and Profanity Are Habits

New Christians may struggle with profanity because they have heard and used it all of their lives. Swearing has become a habit that is easy to fall into when they are upset or want to emphasize a point. They may not even realize they had used foul language.

To Vent Anger and Frustration

People who swear may be using expletives to vent their anger and frustration with life. Some of this anger may end up being projected at other people. Sometimes people use others as an excuse, stating that they swore because another person provoked them into it.

To Make Other People Uncomfortable or Vulnerable to Control

Some people may know that a person is uncomfortable with profanity and deliberately use it to make them uncomfortable and hurt their feelings. Perpetrators of emotional abuse use profanity to abuse, manipulate, control, and demean other people in situations such as domestic abuse.

To Show That They Are "Cool"

Others, especially teens, use bad language to show off and demonstrate how cool and fearless they are. Going against the standards of good taste gives the teens a false feeling of being powerful, as if they were daring God to send down a lightning bolt. They rejoice that the skies stayed clear, and they survived the situation intact.

Some Christians use profanity to demonstrate that their Christian walk is not legalistic. Instead, they are "free" to do whatever they want. In this case, they are free to be vulgar and use an expletive instead of “ouch” when something suddenly hurts them.

Why Swearing is Offensive

Most people, whether Christian or non-Christian, find swearing crude, rude, and offensive. I certainly do not want to hear references to stuff done in the bathroom and other body functions.

The F--- word is especially repulsive because it is a vulgar reference to what should be a special demonstration of love between married people. The meaning of the word has degenerated into a physical act purely for pleasure instead of a way two people show love to each other. According to scripture, the marriage bed is an honorable thing and should be treated with respect (Hebrews 13:4).

What the Bible Says

If you look up the word swear in the Bible, you will find that it usually refers to swearing an oath -- something Jesus tells us not to do. The Bible teaches us to let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no.” The Bible does, however, have a lot to say about how we should speak and represent ourselves as Christians.

Our conversation is supposed to be wholesome and beneficial to others. Our words should only build up, encourage, and help others according to their needs (Ephesians 4:29-30). If our words are unwholesome, we grieve the Holy Spirit.

Our religion is worthless if we do not keep a tight reign on our tongues (James 1:26). We should shun profane and vain babblings (2 Timothy 2:16) and avoid “filthy” communication (Colossians 3:8-10).

Swear words are often spoken in anger – usually against another person. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister and calls them a fool is in danger of hellfire (Matthew 5:22). The word “Raca” used for “fool” can mean worthless and was used by the Jews to express contempt. The root of the word actually means “to spit.”

When people curse and mistreat us, we should respond by loving them and doing good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27-28). Worthless and foolish talk leads to goodless behavior (2 Timothy 2:18). We must eliminate filthy language in our vocabulary and become new beings in Christ (Colossians 3:8).

People tend to let profanity fly without even realizing what they are saying. One hit of a hammer on a finger and words will fly. Avoiding bad language takes mindfulness. We have to carefully consider what we will say before we speak.


The Names God, Jesus, and Christ

We often hear “God” and “Jesus” used to express anger or frustration when someone hits his thumb instead of a nail with a hammer or when someone cuts him off in traffic. Swearing by using God’s name degrades Him to a powerless, empty state that denies His omnipotence.

God wants to be treated with honor and respect. The second commandment states that we should not take the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:6). In this context, the term “vain” means “empty. In the book of Ecclesiastes, vain also means useless, worthless, and a waste of time.

Misusing the name of God profanes and sullies it (Deuteronomy 5:11) and is sin. God will hold people accountable for the words they utter (Exodus 20:7, Matthew 12:36). Our religion is worthless if we do not keep a tight rein on our tongues (James 1:26). Guarding our tongues will keep us out of trouble (Proverbs 21:23)

As Christians, we are to focus on things that are honorable, just, pure, loveable, commendable, and worthy of praise. God promises that He will be with us if we pursue these things (Philippians 4:8-9). Our words should bless and not profane and degrade the world with potty talk. Let us put away profane words from our mouths and strive for wholesome speech (Colossians 3:8).


The Holy Bible,New International Version

© 2015 Carola Finch