What does the Bible say about cursing? Is it a sin to use curse words (also called swear words or cussing)? Should Christians use profanity in their conversations with others?
The Bible clearly condemns cursing, and it is a serious sin against God. In our age today, curse words are common. Song lyrics are full of cussing. The average television show is full of vile profanity. Movies will almost always use the “GD” word, “F” word, and other filthy language. Children often pick up these nasty little “4-letter words” in the school system from their friends. Many blogs are riddled with profanity-laced tirades, and YouTube videos are filled with profanity.
And on and on it goes.
I can remember a time when people would apologize when a curse word slipped out. Now it’s become ingrained in society’s daily conversations. Some may consider you a “nerd” or a “goody-goody” if you don’t curse like a sailor.
Before I get into the scriptures, I’ll just briefly say that I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve done my fair share of cursing in my lifetime. At the same time, I now see cursing as God sees it: It’s a potty-mouthed sin that no Christian should commit, and if you do commit this sin regularly, it’s time to get serious about repenting from it. The Bible condemns cursing, filthy talk, and a loose tongue numerous times.
While cursing may be common, it reflects a lack of maturity in the Christian faith, as well as a poor vocabulary. We Christians should lovingly rebuke a brother or sister who is committing this sin unrepentantly.
What the Bible Says About Profanity/Cussing
The worst curse word you can ever use is to take the Holy name of God and use it to curse something. God is holy and perfect. What a shame that so many people today use His name as a common curse word. In fact, have you ever noticed that no one ever curses Buddha, Krishna, Allah, or these other false gods? Instead, they use curse words such as: Jesus H. Christ, G.D.-it, for Christ’s sake, or variations of the name of God such as “gosh,” “golly,” etc.
Here’s what God says about using His name as a curse word:
Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Leviticus 24:16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.
Psalm 139:20 For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.
Proverbs 30:9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.
This is clearly a vile sin in God’s eyes, and rightfully so. To take God’s name in vain means to take something Holy and make it worthless, common, or empty. Most people recognize that cursing using God’s name is taking His name in vain, but few people realize that common phrases such as “Oh my God (OMG)” or “By God” or “For God’s sake/Christ’s Sake” and other similar phrases also constitute taking His name in vain.
Blaspheming God’s name was worthy of the death penalty in the Old Testament.
Warnings Against Filthy Language in the Bible
There are several other warnings against using filthy language, having a “loose” tongue, and so forth. Notice how “bad language’ is a common characteristic of ungodly people! This is why it’s important for Christians to avoid using such talk.
Here are some scriptures that condemn frivolous cursing and swearing (bold emphasis is mine) or bad language:
“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20).
“But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:16).
“Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:4).
“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8).
“By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood” (Hosea 4:2).
The Bible also gives us ample warnings about controlling our tongue. Even though it is a small muscle, it is also a powerful one. It can hurt many people and lead us into much trouble and sin. Dr. Adrian Rogers once said this about the tongue, “Speaking in tongues is not a sign you have religion. A sign that you have religion is controlling the one tongue you do have.”
“But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).
“For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile” (1 Peter 3:10).
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26).
“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” (James 3:5-6).
“Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23).
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:21).
“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4).
“Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile” (Psalm 34:13).
“…I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me” (Psalm 39:1).
Jesus warns us that what comes out of our mouth defiles us, and He tells us that we will give an account for the words we utter one day. He also says that using harsh language (or calling a brother a fool) can potentially lead us into hell. Isn’t that a frightening thought?
“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” (Matthew 15:11).
“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).
“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22).
The Bible clearly forbids pronouncing a curse on others, such as our brothers and sisters in Christ, parents, and kings and rulers. Cursing parents was worthy of the death penalty in the Old Testament:
Leviticus 20:9 For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.
Proverbs 30:11 There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.
Matthew 15:4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
Ecclesiastes 10:20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.
In the New Testament, Peter denied Christ, just as Jesus predicted he would. When accused of knowing Jesus, Peter because so infuriated at the accusation (which was true, of course), that he began to curse and swear, claiming not to know Jesus:
“But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak” (Mark 14:71).
Even if someone curses us first, God’s word tells us a great way to handle it:
“Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Luke 6:28).
“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
Conclusion: Christians Are Commanded Not to Curse
Even though the flesh can sometimes manifest itself in a moment of weakness (just like with The Apostle Peter), Christians are commanded to turn away from filthy language and cursing. God clearly condemns cursing, using rough language, filthy jokes, swearing, and frivolous words.
We should also gently rebuke others who make a habit of practicing this sin. Furthermore, I refuse to watch television shows, movies, or listen to songs laced with profanity. There have been many occasions when my wife and I have turned off a movie after hearing the “G.D.” word. We now check ratings much more carefully to make sure we’re not going to watch TRASH that takes the name of God in vain.
If you’re struggling with this sin, it’s time to pray to God and confess your bad language as sin. The Bible says that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. You then need to make a commitment to hold your tongue and speak wholesome words, not filthy cussing. You should also abstain from filthy music, television, and friends who use this language regularly.