Those who know me really well know that before I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior and begun to follow Him and submit every aspect of my life to Him, I had foul mouth akin to a sailor. Now at this point in life, after 6 years of knowing and pursuing the Lord, I have forgotten largely what it was like to live that way and have such a vocabulary, but I do remember that it was the case and that it was severe. In fact, I would say that the struggle to stop using foul language was the first of many difficult bouts of making war with sin in my experience of the Christian life. You noticed I called cussing and using foul language "sin" just then, which may have been surprising to you, whether or not you, reader, are a Christian. So in all actuality is cussing wrong?
From the perspective of Biblical Christianity, the answer is yes. The view of many people is that cussing isn't immoral, but rather that it is just not fitting in particular situations, akin to belching loudly at the supper table or wearing white socks with a tuxedo. This is the view of many good, devoted Christians as well. Although they themselves often do not use foul language, they wouldn't go as far as to say that it is immoral, but probably would take it down a peg and say it's inappropriate depending on the situation. While I would agree in one sense that cussing is unseemly and doesn't belong in most social situations, I would go further to say that it is unethical and that it doesn't belong in any situation.
Christians should derive their theology and their approach to ethics from the Bible, which we believe to be the inerrant Word of God that is good for all matters of faith and practice in the Christian life, including "teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..." (see 2 Timothy 3:16) In light of this, the Christian believer should understand a value, belief, attitude, or action as being morally permissible or morally reprehensible based not on the general attitudes of his or her culture, what is popular or taken to be "cool," or even what his or her parents think, but based on what God says. We can know what God, who is the ultimate standard of good and beauty, has to say about things by reading and studying His Word, the Bible.
Before I continue to discuss this matter and to address the question on cussing, it seems to me that it would be good to make it crystal clear the things this post are not geared toward; to speak to what I'm not speaking to, if you will, beforehand. This article is absolutely not aimed at being judgmental toward people who earnestly wrestle with this sin to make them feel stepped on or belittled. This article is absolutely not geared toward cultivating a kind of legalism in the church where people impose unbiblical, rigid sentiments on themselves and others, threatening people with eternity in Hell if they wear the wrong kind of dress.
The Christian should hate legalism, but love the laws of God. (see Psalm 119:97) The Christian should love morals and morality, and hate moralism. Finally, this article's aim is absolutely not to communicate the idea to you, the reader, that the man whose article you're reading is morally perfect and feels the need to put you under his holy boot to crush you and point out your flaws to no end. Rather, the case is quite the contrary, as I am quick to recognize that I am a wretch and sinner at heart and all I have that is good about me is the righteousness of Jesus Christ that was graciously imputed to me by grace through faith. I resonate deeply with the Apostle Paul, who wrote in his Epistle to the Romans "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24, ESV)
Well, in order to explain something in greater detail and point out what is wrong with it, it seems necessary to give some sort of explanation as to what it is. What exactly is cussing? I would define it as the use of words that are most often taken to be crude, crass, and dirty by society. I concede that what is considered a "cuss word" or a "bad word" is often dependent on the cultural milieu in which a person lives, but I think that is ultimately irrelevant to parsing through the issue of whether or not cussing is wrong and that will be unpacked in greater detail in just a moment as the article unfolds. Biblically, something is sinful if it transgresses the objective moral duties that God, in His perfect purity and wisdom, has imposed upon the human race that He created for His glory.
Someone sins when they commit a crime against God, in other words. In another sense, the term "sin" can be used to talk about the fallen, corrupted state of all human beings as a result of the event of the Fall of Man that is recorded in Genesis 3 and is explained in perhaps no greater detail than in Romans 5:12-21. Though I haven't the space to go at length about the nature and results of this event called the Fall of Man, it wouldn't be unfair to the Bible to say that all sinful actions stem from sinful values and beliefs that are produced by our sinful, corrupted heart. We sin because we are sinners at heart, Biblically speaking.
Many people will say something like, "I understand why God has a problem with murder, stealing, abuse, and things like that, but why does He care how I talk?" That is a good question that could be discussed at great length, but a simple answer would be that the Bible has the answer and one should carefully read it and study it in its context to find out. However, I think it would be sufficient to say that God is the objective standard of good, that God is maximally holy and pure, that God created us to have our identity in Him in every aspect of living life, and that God designed us to happily submit to His Lordship and goodness in all things and in all situations. If God were morally deficient in some way, which truthfully would be a contradiction in terms, it wouldn't hurt us in his sight to be a little dirty here and a little dirty there, but God is holy and thus we are in dire straights if we are even a slight bit unholy, which is why every single one of us needs Jesus desperately.
But I will now provide what I think is at least one of the best Biblical texts that work to demonstrate the immorality of using profanity.
In his Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul gives manifold teaching to the Christian community in the city of Ephesus, which is in modern-day Turkey, concerning a wide range of topics, including the doctrines of election and perseverance (Ephesians 1:11-14), the nature of how a person can be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9), how believers should approach the broad subject of living for Jesus, and how Christian men and women should think about marriage. (Ephesians 5:22-33) In Ephesians 5:4, Paul writes "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving." , I will highlight three principles here that I notice. (1.) It is unbecoming of a Christian to use language that can rightly be called filthy, crude, and foolish, (2.) there is connection between profanity and some form of unthankfulness, and (3.) it is morally wrong according to Scripture to be unseemly and careless as to what is and is not acceptable.
The great English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said "Furthermore, it is absolutely essential to all true religion that you and I should be sanctified. A faith which works not for purification will work for putrefaction. Unless our faith makes us pine after holiness and pant after conformity to God, it is no better than the faith of devils and, perhaps, it is not even as good as that!" Christian believers are called of God to pursue holiness by ardent trust in God and in the power of the Holy Spirit to change their hearts, minds, and actions as part of a process that we call "sanctification." Some call this, and I think rightly so, "becoming more like Jesus." As we observe the life of Jesus, who we as believers are united to and thereby made just and righteous before God through, we see no sign of crass, rude speech or indication of a lack of concern for what was pure and wholesome. Jesus was totally pure, wholesome, and true in all of his ways, speech and action alike.
While commenting on the topic of foul language, the well-known theologian and pastor John Piper said "People that tend to use a lot of four-letter words, a lot to scatological talk, a lot of harsh, crude, rough, and crass talk, are generally sounding pretty angry. They are not content. They are not happy in Jesus. Something is out of whack in their heart. I think a third major issue is your heart. Are these types of words coming out of a good heart?" People that tend to use a lot of four-letter words, a lot to scatological talk, a lot of harsh, crude, rough, and crass talk, are generally sounding pretty angry. They are not content. They are not happy in Jesus. Something is out of whack in their heart. I think a third major issue is your heart. Are these types of words coming out of a good heart?"
Finally, though it is true that words that are regarded as "cuss words" or just crass and rude are so due to cultural ideas that could even be said to shift or alter slightly between cultures and geographical regions, the Bible is clear that those who know and follow Jesus should not use such talk; that it is morally wrong to be unseemly, rude, and crass. In Ephesians 5:4, Paul wrote that using "cuss words" and talk that is crude is "out of place," which I take to mean unbecoming, unseemly, and inappropriate. These would be synonyms. Paul also wrote in his First Epistle to the Corinthians "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful..." (1 Corinthians 13:4-5) Here Paul shows that it is, in some way, unloving for Christians to deliberately be rude, crass, profane, and disrespectful.
To close, in Christianity, the belief is that the chief end of human life is to glorify God by enjoying Him as one's most satisfying pleasure and value Him as one's most prized treasure. This is what I believe to be the most Biblically faithful description of what the big picture is in being a Christian. It's called Christian Hedonism and it is a value that I personally hold on to with a tight grip. By that line of thinking, what a person most fundamentally needs is to know Jesus and to treasure Him, cherish Him, love Him, and daily grow nearer to Him in their affections for Him and dependence on Him. So with that said, the most loving thing a Christian can do for another person, whether they are a believer that needs to grow in Christ or an unbeliever that needs Him and is pining without Him in their current state, is to commend Jesus Christ to them. Basically, to glorify God is to commend Him by delighting in Him. I think we can generally agree that cussing doesn't commend Jesus. How could that which is by definition inappropriate magnify He who is supremely valuable, beautiful, and holy?