By Katie Cook
Does Cussing Matter?
As kids, many of us were told that certain words were bad words. But as we got older, those words stopped being “bad” and became more commonplace. Part of everyday life. Even as Christians.
In my own life, I have struggled with this. I want to be relevant, and I hear these words all the time in music, TV, movies, and even from my friends. As I began in youth ministry, I realized I didn’t know why we as Christians are not supposed to cuss. The girls I was leading challenged my position on not cussing: What’s the big deal? They’re just words. So I began to ask the question for myself. Does cussing matter as a Christian? And if so, why?
I began to dig deeper on this issue. What does God have to say about our words? Is cussing a sin? Well, the Lord had a lot to say on the matter when I asked.
Cussing isn’t a sin. You won’t find ‘thou shalt not cuss’ in the 10 Commandments. However, it is important to keep in mind that as Christians, we belong to Christ. Not just our minds, but our bodies, and our lips too. As Christians, we are God’s representatives on earth. Just like the US sends representatives to other nations to speak on behalf of the country, we are the ones God sends into the world to represent Him and speak for Him.
Imagine with me for a moment. You are an important world leader. You wear suits and heels to work everyday. Because you are paid to represent your country in the most honorable and respectful way possible, you can’t just go around saying whatever you want anymore. Your actions directly affect the way people see your country. Imagine you meet a representative for another country to talk about important matters. If that representative shows up cussing, saying vulgar things about others and disrespecting them with his words, you would assume his actions are a reflection of what his country values and respects (or disrespects).
World leaders and diplomats have to use their words strategically. Their words have to be carefully thought out so that they make the most impact. Their actions are reflections of their country’s character.
And it’s the same way as Christians.
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us…” 2 Corinthians 5:20
If a Christian goes around saying vulgar things that disrespect people, that gets automatically reflected on the church and Christ. As representatives of Christ to the world, our words aren’t our own anymore. We need to be strategic with what we say.
Here’s what Paul had to say about our words:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
The word “unwholesome” in Greek means “decayed, rotten”. It’s the same word they use for spoiled meat, rotting fruit, and crumbling stones. It’s hard to build people up if we are working with crumbling stones. Cuss words don’t build people up. Every one of them has some sort of disrespectful or vulgar implication.
This is a hard lesson. Nobody these days sees a problem with cussing. It’s viewed as authentic, as accepted and celebrated. Occasionally, I catch myself cussing, even though I try to intentionally keep my talk clean, because it becomes an engrained response as we watch and hear it over and over. It’s normal, seen as a rite of passage into adulthood. It’s funny, cool, trendy.
But we are not called to please the world. In fact, we are called to not conform to the trends of the world.
What if the way you choose to not cuss causes somebody to pause and say, “Wow, they are so encouraging. They’ve got something different than the rest of the world. This Jesus thing sounds so helpful and life-giving”? What if it challenges them to confront their sin and run to the loving arms of Jesus?
Look, giving up cussing isn’t easy. But it becomes easier when you start doing this because you want to honor God and represent Him well instead of it just being a rule you have to follow. And it becomes even easier when you have the mindset of using your words to build rather than tear down.
If you feel convicted to change the way you speak, I challenge you to find a Christian friend who you trust. Make a commitment with them to not cuss for 21 days, and have them hold you accountable. Change becomes easier when we do it in community and not on our own.
Your words matter more than you know. Use them wisely.