Contend Earnestly: Cussing for Christ: Finding Meaning in Words: Part I

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cussing for Christ: Finding Meaning in Words: Part I

Now that I have your attention, I hope that I can hold it for an honest discussion all the way to the end. Words matter. But they don't matter in the way you might suspect. Some people, when they hear that words matter, know this, because they have a list of words that cannot be used or one is in sin. I find this odd. Now, I used to be one of these people who would so investigate words and their origins that I almost had to stop vocalizing because so many words come from some weird derivation of something else. There has been much discussed on this subject and the same verses keep coming up from those who oppose people using certain terms because they are "filthy" and "abusive."

But, isn't there more to words than merely their terms? Isn't the meaning or intent far more important? I say yes. I know some will disagree, so I want to show through the Scriptures that it isn't which words you are using, but to whom, which culture and for what reason. You can have your own convictions of which terms you will and will not use, that is completely okay (Romans 14). But, you must not use your list and your convictions to put it on others as a yoke that isn't required from Christ. That is when you cross the line of using your conscience to a Pharisee.

Also, know that this isn't a post to get you to start cussing, or to use words however you want. Actually living by theseconvictions will make you more conscience of your speech, not less. You will also note, I am going to completely use the Scriptures here to make my point and case on this subject. I have written some other posts on the matter, which you can check out here:

More Stuff/Crap About Vulgar Language

Further Discussion on Coarse Language

Isn't There a List of Words Good Christians Shouldn't Use?

This is an interesting question. Some Christians don't like people using the term "crap", some Christians don't like people using the term "sh#t", some Christians don't like people using the term "poop". Then we have which terms can one use for your gluteus maximus? Can you use the term "ass" or "butt" or is "bum" or "hiney" only allowable? Some don't like people using the term "frick" or "frack" or whatever, the point is the list could be so outrageous that one could never express themselves without being condemned to hell...errr...that fiery place...for using them. Isn't there some sort of list in the Bible that we can all follow so that we can just get along? Here is the real issue that most don't know. The use of particular terms is a grey area, not a black and white issue. And, the issue is NOT which terms, but in the intent behind the term.

I was having coffee with Mike Gunn, the founding pastor and one of the preaching pastors at my new church, and he brought this up to me.

Jesus, himself, had a list of words, okay, only one word, that you were never allowed to use. He even said that if you use it that you would be guilty of the fiery hell. And with this he proves that lists of specific terms are not good enough, but their intent is far more important to the one using words to express themselves.

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
Matthew 5:22

Jesus tells us that if you express yourself by calling your brother a fool, you are guilty enough of fiery hell. At first glance, this looks like Christ has just made a list for us to follow, to put in your fake leather bible cover right next to the bookmark with Psalm 42 written on it. Case closed, done. I can add that word with other words that are naughty. Then as you read your computerized Bible reading plan for a year, you come across this word again. You see that it is used, and you say, "well, that person is destined for hell because they used the term that Jesus said not to."

It comes in Matthew 23:17

“You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold?"

But, wait, there must have been a printing error, because this verse is in red.

If it's in red, then Jesus said it. So, we have a predicament here. Either Jesus is a sinner and is not our Saviour, or there is something deeper in what Christ meant in Matthew 5:22.

What Christ is trying to get to in this passage is the intent of the heart and what it is set on. Christ continues to point us to the real gospel truth of the fact that he wants our heart, not merely our outside works. The real sin that is presented here is not merely calling someone a fool, but the intent behind the accusation. This term, when used for an actual accusation is pretty strong. In the Septuagint, it is also used in Isaiah 32:5,6

No longer will the fool be called noble,
Or the rogue be spoken of as generous.
For a fool speaks nonsense,
And his heart inclines toward wickedness:
To practice ungodliness and to speak error against the Lord,
To keep the hungry person unsatisfied
And to withhold drink from the thirsty.
Isaiah 32:5-6

You can see the strength in this term. But you can also see why Christ, in the context he was in with the Pharisees, used the term for them. He wasn't unrighteously angry, he was trying to get to their hearts and this term would definitely suffice. Using this term for accusation purposes because one has unrighteous anger in their heart is where the sin is, not in the term itself.

How does this look today?

I use terms that would constitute the same exact leanings and consequences. I call some friends "dumb asses" when we are kidding around. I have also used the term in an honest evaluation of someone when they are being a dumb, stubborn ass and need correction. I have also used the term when it has been in the wrong context, with the wrong people and I considered to be a sin because I didn't take into consideration of those listening.

Some will have the term "ass" on their list of words not to use. That is completely fine and I have friends that would fit into this category. I will not use the term around them as I am concerned for them and not with my freedom to use such a term. So, is it the term that is bad, or is it the context and culture that I am in? What we find with Christ, it is the context, culture and intent...not the actual word. The only time it is the actual word is if you personally have your conscience set against it and then you use the term.

I will do another post on this subject to get to the heart of these verses:

and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
Ephesians 5:4

Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
Titus 2:6-8

We will really hit some different passages to see what Paul is trying to put forth here. Again, if people were to put Jesus to the same test that they put others, their testing would find Jesus guilty of sin. That is dangerous footing and one I will hopefully open up for discussion so that we can get to the true heart of the matter.

Because I, as sure as hell, don't want you going to hell.


Anonymous said...

Well-reasoned, well-written. I personally, primarily because of the last two passages you quoted, tend to be overly scrupulous about the words I use, but try to be non-judgmental toward others who have scruples different from mine. I look forward to the next post.

Anonymous said...

You are attending a new church??? I thought you were still with us at TCC? :p

Boaly said...

Very well put!

Seth McBee said...

Barry...thank you sir, and good to see your thoughts on it

anon: who is this? And no...we moved on to a new church at the beginning of July

Anonymous said...

I read this and think of fond memories of Piper's sermon against Prosperity Gospel.

It is the only time I heard the word 'crap' at the pulpit.

It would be the only time I would think it would be incredibly appropriate to use the word 'crap' at the pulpit and I love the way it was used.

Honestly, I can't find a way to use that word any other way. Same goes for the non-7 cuss words or whatever word we Christians make up.

It is all about the heart. It isn't like our words can cover up and hid what's really on our heart.

Seth McBee said...

Very well put...sounds like you "get it" when it comes to language. You have come up with a list for yourself, which is completely fine, but not willing to hold it against others.

Thanks for commenting...

Todd said...

But careful about being a stumbling block to others...

Seth McBee said...

In one sense I agree with you..if I am just chatting with someone that I don't know, it's not like I am going to use crass language. Or, if I know someone doesn't like a term, I'll stay away from it...

But, if I am preaching or teaching and I feel as though certain words need to be used to get my point across...they might stumble...right into Jesus :)

I used to use some pretty harsh words when speaking to the youth to get them to wake up and listen. Nothing that wasn't biblical, but they did get it more because of the usage.

Todd said...

Seth. Yep, I know what you're saying. I was (though didn't mention it) just talking about the particular case you mention when in conversation with someone you don't know or someone that doesn't like a term.

Personally, I try to avoid (and fail miserably alot) using those common cuss words even if it's around the "right" people, lest I get into a habit and end up saying it in front of the "wrong" person.

werd. cheers.

Brad said...

Well written, both of them. My thoughts?

Well, a couple of weeks ago at our weekly mens meeting, I unloaded on a dear friend who happens to be somewhat of a universalist. He had been going on about various topics when I reached a boiling point. But I really don't feel it was just me I believe the Holy Spirit was working in me to speak to this guy. As a back story I lean on the teachings of Calvin but I'm in the minority around here so am often challenged on issues of free will, total depravity etc. The arguement or rip however you want to phrase it centered around Isaiah 29:16 45:9 & Rom 9:21. So in a nutshell I pretty much said "who do you think you are you f-ing pot?!!!" It was pretty hard core. But in the context of the situation and audience it wasn't out of line. We are still very close and no damage was done. I believe he took it in the light of my love for him and I don't believe it would have reached him any other way. I sincerely believe the Holy Spirit was speaking through me because that just doesn't happen with me.

Would it work from the pulpit? Probably not, but maybe. I think if more pastors were more hard core, more people wouldn't take the gospel message or the need for repentance so lightly. Some people just can't hear soft words.

So I don't know. This probably won't sit too well with some of your readers, but I look forward to (I think) your responses.

Seth McBee said...

I don't know the guys you are with and so it would be hard to let you know what is "correct" or what is wrong. I have some pretty heavy theological discussions with some friends where some very coarse words are used...not to shock, but to get to the bottom of the issue and how it should penetrate our hearts and turn our affections to Christ.

As far as preaching...I would be pretty careful when using certain terms unless they are biblical and used for correction and grace.

If one does use a coarse word, they are a public figure and their message is podcasted...they will endure quite the firestorm. But, that shouldn't stop them.

I just have an issue with people who use coarse language in public for the sake of using coarse language...I also hae an issue with people who dodge certain texts and words in the Bible because they are scared of the backlash.

Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

I would have to disagree

James 3:8-13
8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it WE CURSE MEN, who have been made in God's likeness.
11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Are you saying there are words today which “people have defined as offensive” but are not truly cussing or cursing? Are you saying that there are words which may appear to lack taste, delicacy, or refinement and show a sign of lack of good breeding but are not cussing? I might agree!

Or are you saying that cursing is ok "if" used for a good purpose? (joking around or piercing some ones heart, or waking someone up…)

Cuss is merely the slang form of the word curse, meaning to call doom on someone, it is rude or offensive in intent, harming, just as calling someone a "dumb ass" is.

Isn't Cussing for Christ really a contradiction in terms. The purpose of calling someone a “dumb ass” is a put down! It is not edifying no matter how you play with the words! It’s intent is harm for the person! Even if you are joking, it is an emotional put down is it not? Sure, you might wake them up, but they will notice the insult, and will you then be a Godly example you wish in their eyes? You may say you are just joking around, or you may say you are just trying to “pierce their heart for the gospel” but it is still a put down. OUT OF THE SAME MOUTH COME PRAISE AND CURSING. MY BROTHERS, THIS SHOULD NOT BE!

Seth McBee said...


Do you have a name?

If you want to know what I believe cursing means, please read this post: Further Discussion on Coarse Language

I used a popular term "cussing" for title purposes is really meant to show forth coarse language.

I would bet that you have used a term to degrade someone as a joke. I bet you still do, and I bet you don't feel it is a big deal. I bet you have called friends, "you loser" or "you dummy" or whatever word you use. It isn't meant to listerally curse them, it is meant in jest.

As far as not using coarse language to edify, I will once again refer back to how Jesus, the Prophets, and apostles used purposeful coarse language to awaken people.

If you have a problem with me using the term "ass" with some stubborn, prideful people:

Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure. 9 For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers.
Hosea 8:8-9

There's others as well...but no need to list them all.

For some reason you have misplaced what the term edification means. Edification doesn't mean telling someone they are a great person...sometimes edification comes by the way of admonishment. Trying to strip someone of their self righteous sin by telling them how it is, is edifying. It just might not sound like Christian radio or a kid's bedtime story.

Again...the bible is our example, and God put down many people to get them to see how stupid they were.

So, even if you put the verse in all caps, it still does not negate the testimony of the entirety of Scripture.

I do thank you for commenting...

I would like to know who you are because you've peaked my interest.

Hope you are well.

Anonymous said...


Yes, I do have a name. But this is not about me. This is about an honest discussion you speak about in your first sentence. A friendly intellectual debate…

A point to ponder: It is not about what is important or seems right to you or me, but what is important to God.

It is about how words and intent do matter and are important.

When you call someone a “dumb ass” even in jest, what is the meaning or intent? It’s a put down is it not? Its purpose or meaning is to degrade someone – by your words. It is a judgment!

The real question is: is this put down ok? This is a different question than is it ok to use coarse language. Are degrading putdowns acceptable in God’s eyes? What is God’s standard! The question is not if it is a big deal to me or you or society, the question is: is it acceptable to God? This is not about coarse words; it is about degrading others, even in jest.

God can degrade someone, yes, He has the right! He has many examples in the bible and they are just examples. He can bring us to lower rank or status; He has the right to view us as inferior, to degrade us. But do we have the right as humble, fallen beings to degrade or bring another to lower esteem? Even if it is only in jest? Or, are we just puffing ourselves up?

You state: I would bet that you have used a term to degrade someone as a joke. I bet you still do, and I bet you don't feel it is a big deal. I bet you have called friends, "you loser" or "you dummy" or whatever word you use. It isn't meant to literally curse them, it is meant in jest.

Again, your question is wrong! What I do or don’t do is not the standard! You are trying to justify your or my putdowns to our peers as acceptable in God’s view and I can’t find that example in the bible. The bible verse I gave you clearly said from my mouth can come good and evil… The real question is what God’s standard when it comes to cussing, not your standard or my standard!

Maybe I should have started sooner in James:

James 3:1-13
1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.
4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man,
8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.
10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.
11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Words are very powerful. We need to carefully choose our words because they are powerful. If coarse, language makes a better point ok but to degrade, to put others down… I would be very careful, that does not seem Christ like to me. It is about respect…and respecting others or lack of..

Respectfully submitted,

Seth McBee said... I will assume we know each other, yet you will not tell me who you are...that is odd.

What is odd, is that the whole discussion of this is about how do we edify with words...I submit that edification can happen while degrading them and their thoughts on things. Telling them how it does this happen often? No.

You choose when you feel it is right, because of the Spirit's leading. Again...Elijah really hammered the prophets of Baal and made a ton of fun of them...asking if their god was on the toilet.

Jesus degraded the Pharisees so many times it's comical.

Paul told the Galatians that those who circumcise should just cut the whole thing off.

I tried to drive this home...but I am not saying this is the don't take this lightly...

I will also say, I think it is ridiculous if you try to tell someone never to joke around with a friend and call them a loser or a nimrod, or whatever word you want to throw in there.


Is there ever a time for sarcasm? Or is our life supposed to be filled with boredom for Jesus?

I call some of the people I respect the most...a loser, while joking...they get that and they don't feel a lack of respect...

You have taken this to a whole new level and taken the fun out of fundamentalism.

And James is speaking about something far worse than you are trying to suppose here.

Cursing is a very serious issue...but even Jesus did it at times...this is not speaking of me calling a buddy a dork.

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