You hear them in movies, television series, and in actual conversations. To some, these words sound cool, and they have made them part of their lives. Yet when you learn their meaning, cuss words will make you cringe. They’re commonplace, and many a young Christian might find themselves questioning: Is it always sinful to use cuss words? Is it sinful to cuss at someone? What if I didn’t cuss at someone, but at something or a situation? Is that still sinful? What if I just hit my finger and say a cuss word? Is that still sin?
We must consider the implications of our speech because sin does impact our witness (1 Peter 2:11-12) and our relationship with God (Isaiah 59:1-2).
God’s Name, ‘Damn’ & ‘Hell’
Some cuss words that people use include the names of God or Jesus. These are outrightly sinful because they use God’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7). To use God’s name in vain means that you’re using his name in a way that is not reverent or respectful to him. For example, if you hit your finger and exclaim “God!” to express displeasure with what happened, you are somehow suggesting that God maliciously wronged you, however unintentionally so. Imagine someone shouting “Njeri!” after they hit their finger. If your name is Njeri, you would wonder, “What did I do to you? Why are you angry at me? I didn’t hit your finger!” Therefore cussing using the name of God is irreverent and sinful.
Other cuss words use the words ‘damn’ and ‘hell’. Some people don’t realize that the word ‘damn’ is a short way of saying May God damn you to hell, which is a severe curse. Do you want someone to go to hell? That may not be your intention in using the word ‘damn’, but that doesn’t alter the meaning of the word. And even if you didn’t direct it towards someone but towards an inanimate object or a situation, you’d still be making light of the reality of hell. Hell is a place of eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46), a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:50), and a place where the fire never goes out (Mark 9:43). As Jesus said, it would be “better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell” (Mark 9:43). Cussing using ‘damn’ or ‘hell’ makes light of a horrible reality that is yet to come for those who don’t know Jesus as Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:5-8).
Cuss Words Hinder Love
Other cuss words are not directly related to God, Jesus, or Hell, but they are very rude words to use. You would never say these words in front of your grandmother because we know that they are not kind to use deep down. Remember that the scriptures tell us that “Love is…not…rude” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). The word “rude” in Greek has the idea that love is not anything disgraceful, dishonourable, or indecent. In other words, love avoids anything vulgar or profane. Cuss words certainly are vulgar and profane, unlike the love we ought to express to the world (John 13:34-35, 5:43-44, 22:37-39). Being unloving on account of cussing calls to question whether we truly are believers (1 John 4:16-17).
Scripture tells us that we should let no corrupting talk come out of our mouths, but only that which builds others up and gives grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29). Our speech should be gracious and seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). Salt is something that preserves, the lack of which leads to decomposition. Therefore, Colossians 4:6 suggests that speech that is not gracious, such as using cuss words, decomposes others and even relationships.
Lastly, Colossians 3:8 instructs that we put away obscene talk from our mouths. Such talk is due the wrath of God (Colossians 3:6), something never to be treated cheaply. Moreover, obscene talk does not show that our lives have been transformed by the gospel (Colossians 3:7) and stands shoulder to shoulder with whatever other sins we tend to consider more grievous — sexual immorality, evil desire, covetousness, idolatry, and lying (Colossians 3:5-9).
In Colossians 4:2-4, Paul asks for prayer from the church in Colossi to preach the gospel to the unsaved with clarity as God opens doors for him. Then Paul, not wanting the Colossians to think that the burden is solely on him, instructs them to walk in wisdom and make good use of time by sharing the gospel and answering any questions that may come up (Colossians 4:5-6). It is in light of this great reality that the instruction to speak graciously and season our speech with salt (Colossians 4:6) comes. Evidently, our witness can be compromised through our speech. If tempted to cuss, we must ever ask if it’s worth hindering gospel proclamation to those who are unsaved.
We are to consider our speech and ask if it cheapens the reality of God and hinders our gospel witness. The Lord forbid that we should hinder anyone from seeing the goodness of Jesus through cuss words. Peter tells believers to keep their conduct honourable so that people can see God’s glory in their lives, leading them to salvation (1 Peter 2:11-12). Is your speech honourable? Is it full of grace (Ephesians 4:29)? Or is it hindering your love from being expressed instead (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)?
Cussing just isn’t worth it, and regardless of whether we swore at someone or something, we need to repent and ask God for his grace to overcome the temptation to sin using cuss words (1 Corinthians 10:13).