Is Cursing A Sin? (what the Bible REALLY says About Swearing)

Is cursing a sin?

Many Christians have a pretty strong conviction about how to answer these questions. They have Bible verses loaded up and ready to fire out. But I think we’ve oversimplified these questions.

I know most people want a black-and-white answer. Is swearing a sin, yes or no? But the Bible doesn’t reduce these questions to a simple answer. Instead, it challenges us and calls us to something bigger.

How We’ve Softened The Language In The Bible

We tend to view the Bible as a book that is pure as in it doesn’t contain anything “bad.” But we couldn’t be more wrong. The Bible is full of stories that would make your grandma blush. 

Let me be clear. I’m not saying the Bible is bad. It isn’t. And I’m not saying God isn’t pure and holy. He is. I’m saying the Bible doesn’t hide the messiness and brokenness of human beings. 

The Bible is a book that tells of a fallen, broken, and messed up people that do some very disturbing things. We will look at some of those in a minute. The point is, the Bible isn’t as “clean” as some Christians think. 

Let’s look at some examples. 

We often read the Song of Solomon as a cute little relationship between two lovers. But this is no PG encounter; it’s so explicit that the Jews didn’t let their kids read it until they became adults. 

Consider Song of Solomon 5:14. Most translations say something like “his body is polished ivory.” But that’s not a good translation. The wife is comparing an elephant tusk to her husband’s… you know… In other words, she is saying he is WELL endowed. 

This book is FULL of extremely sexually explicit imagery. It’s enough to make most people blush. 

And that’s not the only book in the Bible that is sexually charged. Genesis 38:8-10 talks about spilling your “seed.” Ezekiel constantly compares Israel to prostitutes in disturbing detail, just look at Ezekiel 23:20. David cuts off 200 Philistines foreskins (1 Samuel 18:25-27). And if you want a story of a violent sex crazed maniac look no further than Samson (Judges 13-16). 

Those are just a few examples of the sexually explicit content. There’s other offensive words the Bible uses too. 

Paul wasn’t shy about harsh language. He used the word skubala in Philippians 3:8. Most translations tame it down to rubbish or trash, but that misses the point. A better translation would be crap or even shit. If that offends you that’s the point Paul is trying to make. It’s supposed to be offensive. 

Isaiah 64:6 makes a similar point when it compares our good works to “filthy rags.” But again, that’s a bad translation that misses the offensiveness of the original word. It should read our good works are like “menstruation rags” compared to God’s righteousness. 

I could go on, but I think we get the point. The Bible is not afraid to use harsh words, or sexual descriptions, and has lots of violence. 

What we’ve seen so far is that the Bible doesn’t shy away from harsh language. But it doesn’t really give us an answer to, is swearing a sin? So let’s look a little closer at what the Bible says about cussing.

What Does The Bible Say About Cussing? 

We are going to look at some of the most common verses used to answer this question. But there’s too many to look at all of them in a single blog post. If you want a complete list go here: What the Bible Says About Profanity

Ephesians 5:4, Colossians 3:8, James 3:6-10, and Proverbs 4:24 are the four passages I hear most commonly used in discussions about four-letter words. Most Christians use these passages as proof texts as to why we shouldn’t use foul language.

In essence, we’ve boiled down these verses to mean one thing. Don’t cuss. A good man will not curse and an evil man will use such words. But that interpretation sells short the depth of what the Bible is actually communicating. 

Take the Apostle Paul for example. Several times in his letters he tells his readers to avoid filthy language, unwholesome talk, foolish talk, coarse joking, slander, and other things of the sort. He’s using broad categories but never prohibits using any specific curse word. 

What the Bible makes clear is that it’s a sin to belittle, demean, pervert, use crude joking, attack someone, or use deceitful speech. Such things do not come from the goodness of God and do not represent the new life that Jesus came to give us.

The problem is you can do all of those things without ever using a swear word. And many Christians do and feel justified because they didn’t use any bad language.

We get so caught up in the specific words to avoid and miss the larger message.

The Bible never directly tells us to avoid this list of explicit words. Rather it tells us that words matter and that the lives of Christians should modeled in the likeness of God. Therefore we should pay attention to what are words are doing to those around us.

Here’s what I would argue. I don’t think God really cares about the specific words we use. Rather, he cares about the manner in which we use them. 

Words are powerful. And we ought to be careful to use them in a way that honors God and builds people up. 

I know Christians who would never use a cuss word, but they regularly use their words in a manner that doesn’t align with God’s word. They’ve missed the point. The power of the tongue can be deadly poison. And even if you never say a cuss word you can produce vulgar language. 

If we aren’t careful those questions can keep us away from the truth that God is trying to communicate to us through Scripture.

Many think just because they don’t say any “bad words” they are avoiding sin. But God cares more about the way we use our words than the specific words we use. We should look at our whole body, our whole vocabulary, and ask ourselves if we are building others up or tearing them down.

So, Is Swearing A Sin? 

At this point we’ve kind of danced around the question. So, let’s attack it end on. Is cursing a sin? In and of itself using a curse word is not a sin.

There’s nothing special about that word that makes it a sin. What matters is the way that you use that word. If you use it in a way that attacks, demeans, or perverts then that is a sin. 

Words are not the issue. They are simply that, words. Each word has a proper place and a time that they can be used. Any word that is used to tear someone down is wrong. But just because we’ve placed certain words on the “do not say list” doesn’t make them a sin. It’s how, when, and where we use them that dictates whether they are good or bad.

I know that we want the black and white answer. Most Christians want to know exactly where the line is so that they can go right up to it but not cross it. But the Bible rarely gives us that.

Instead, it calls us to evaluate our lives and see if we are living in a manner worthy of the calling God has placed on us. It calls us to examine our heart because out of the overflow of his heart a man speaks (Luke 6:45). You can say some pretty evil things that are not in God’s likeness without ever saying a curse word.

That’s a higher calling. It’s not just about the avoidance of a few bad words. Instead it’s about looking at the larger picture of what we say and how we say it. 

Using Our Words Wisely 

I want to end with a challenge to use our words wisely. 

We should use our words in a way that shows our love for God and honors those we are speaking about. 

Some of the worst things I’ve heard have come from Christians who intentionally don’t swear but still, use their words to tear others apart. The point the Bible makes is that the words you use aren’t the problem. Words are neutral. The way you use words dictates if they become good or bad. 

Should Christians cuss? Well that depends. What is right and wrong isn’t always the same as what is wise and unwise. Or at least effective and ineffective. While it might be okay to do something, or say something, it might not always be wise. 

Instead of asking is cursing a sin? Ask this instead: Would using {Fill in the Blank Word} help or distract? 

What is the wisest thing for you to do? What’s the most loving way you can communicate what you need to say? 

Life is not all black and white. The Bible doesn’t portray it that way either; there’s a whole lot of gray. This question will help us sort out what the wisest thing for us to do is. 

Closing Thoughts On Is Cursing A Sin?

Some people will decide cussing will hinder their relationship with God. That’s great. They should avoid it, and we should watch our language in front of them. 

Other’s aren’t bothered by a few four-letter words. There’s no need to judge them. When the Bible is grey, choose grace. 

Instead let’s hold each other accountable for using our words wisely. For building people up instead of tearing down. 

Maybe you are wondering about taking God’s name in vain. I intentionally didn’t address the name of God in this blog post. But I have written about it here: What It Really Means to Take the Lord’s Name in Vain

Jeffery Curtis Poor
Follow Me

Share With A Friend

DISCLOSURE: This post may contain affliliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links. This is at no cost to you and helps keep Rethink up and running.
Notify of
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments