2003-07-15 - Summer Question
2 Samuel 16:5-7 "When Kind David came to Bahurim, behold, there came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came out cursing continually as he came. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left. And thus Shimei said when he cursed, 'Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless fellow!'"
"My question is whether or not it is okay for Christians to use foul language, cussing, amongst themselves or in front of non-Christians. My personal standard is to avoid any and all words that could be considered foul language. I agree that we are called to a higher standard and it seems that there is always a better way to phrase an exclamation to avoid resorting to the language that people of this world would use. However, I don't want to impose my standard on others, so I merely go on accepting the fact that most of my Christian friends swear a lot more than I am comfortable with."
First I would like to make a comment on the passage quoted above from 2 Samuel. I hope you will notice with me how detailed the Old Testament is. It gives names and history in a manner that is unparalleled in ancient documents. The detail, even in these few verses, is amazing and it only lends assurance to us that this is God's Holy Word, and that He is sovereign in protecting it and giving it to us.
Now onto today's question. There have been various views regarding cursing in the Christian church. Martin Luther held the basic opinion that sometimes you simply have to tell it like it is. I will admit to flipping people off who have cut in front of me when I am on my motorcycle. I know of no other way of communicating to them that they almost just cost me my life. However, in general, I think that foul language is unbecoming a Christian. We are to set a higher standard and to seek to live in purity and wholesomeness. We are to set a higher standard than that of the world.
When someone curses often, the curses lose any effect of drawing attention to the issue being addressed. If expletives are flying left and right, they hold no meaning. It is when someone who "never" curses issues an expletive, it is likely to get some attention. That is the point of an expletive, to get some attention, and if they are flying off the lips, they will not gain the attention desired at the time when they are used. We also need to recall James 5:12, which puts it simply, "But above all, my brethren, do not swear..." However, this verse is really about oaths and making commitments to others, but I would still like to say that cursing is, in many ways, still the making of an oath. Scripture says we should not do this.
There is a promise in Scripture that we should all take note of in Proverbs 21:23, "He who guards his mouth, and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles." We also have the wisdom of King David in Psalm 39:1, "I said, I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle, while the wicked are in my presence." Lastly, from Scripture, we are given a warning regarding our words spoken. Psalm 139:4 tells us that God knows our speech even before there is a word on our tongue. These are just some of the reasons why it is important for us to guard our speech. We are accountable to the Lord for all our actions and speech may seem like a small matter, but if we examine the classic passage found in James 3:5, 6 we can see how significant this matter is in the eyes of the Lord.
"So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell." (James 3:5, 6) Dropping a curse here or there may seem like a small matter, but we are admonished over and over again in Scripture to guard our tongue. The passage above from James 3 tells us that our tongue is a fire and that fire is set by hell itself. I have to admit that in doing this short study of Scripture on this topic I am ashamed that an expletive has ever come across my lips. I can only confess my sin and seek to guard my tongue in the future.
I wish to thank you for this question and I hope that looking into this topic will be as helpful to others as it has been to me.
Soli Deo Gloria,