Is it okay for a Christian to swear? What about euphemisms? And the often heard, “Oh my God!” Is that using God’s name in vain?
Is It Okay For a Christian to Swear?
I hope this is a no-brainer for Christians. It is not okay to swear using bad language and especially using God’s name in cuss words or swearing. Paul is clear about this in Ephesians 4:29: “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.” This would include telling dirty jokes, making off-color remarks, and making lewd or lascivious gestures. These are all considered sin by biblical standards. These are not gray areas. It is wrong to use profane language, calling someone names, and even using euphemisms.
A Definition of Euphemisms
A euphemisms is where one word is substituted for another. When people say “gheeze” or jeewiz, they are actually substituting these words as euphemisms. These are euphemisms for Jesus’ name. They might not think that they are actually swearing but even using names as a substitution, it is considered sin. When someone says, “Darn!” or “Darn it!“ they are actually substituting it for “Damn!” or “Damn it!”. And the often used “Oh my God!” is obvious taking God‘s name in vain, even if people don’t‘ think so. Even further, the use of “Oh my gosh!” is a euphemism for “Oh my God!” and there is no difference at all. That is the way that God looks at it and it is breaking the Third Commandment. God hears it as a substitution for His name and we are told not to take God’s name in vain at any time and for any reason. Taking His name in vain means using it in a careless, useless, or meaningless way. Sometimes people will even attach the word “damn” after it and this God hates. This is clearly sin. Jesus said in Matthew 12:36 “that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”
How about the euphemism “Gosh”? This too is a euphemism for “God”. It is no different than taking God’s name and using it in a useless or vain way. God will not hold those guiltless who profane His name. Exodus 20:7 is clear on this: “”You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Leviticus 19:12 says, “”‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.” Deuteronomy 5:11 records “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Jesus is Lord and God and so when you use His name in vain or a euphemism for it, it is sin as well.
Taming of the Tongue
Everyone has slips of the tongue. Even Christians sometimes say things that they later regret. The Bible is full of stories about people saying things that they regretted saying. A moment of anger gets the best of all of us. Unfortunately, it only takes one moment of anger to wipe out seven years of being a good example. James warns us about the power of the tongue:
James 1:26 “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”
James has almost an entire chapter dedicated to the tongue and its power to do both good and to do bad. Remember that James, the half brother of Christ, is writing to Christians. He speaks of the deadly venom that can be spewed by the tongue in James 1:2-12:
“We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 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. 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. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 1Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
And James says in 3:6: “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.”
Guarding Your Tongue
Jesus understood that our words reflect what is inside of our hearts. In Matthew 12:34 He said, “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” In Matthew 15:1, 17-18 Jesus says “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
Keeping anger in check is a hard thing to do because we battle the flesh constantly. The wisdom literature of Solomon bids us to watch ourselves closely and regard what we say.
Proverbs 22:1 reminds us that “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”
Proverbs 21:23 “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.”
Words of Grace
Whenever possible, I love to choose words that I call the “Three E’s”; edifying, exhorting, and encouraging. Words have real power: Either for good or for evil. They hold the power of life and death. When given the choice, choose to speak what is good. Not flattery which is insincere and is like being a false witness, but by sincere compliments. Words can be the spice of life or the pall of death.
Proverbs 31:26 “She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness.”
Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Proverbs 11:9 “With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape.”
Proverbs 12:18 “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Proverbs 12:25 “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
Proverbs 16:21 “The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction.”
Proverbs 16:22-23 “The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction. Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
The next time you feel anger boiling up inside of you and you feel you are about to say something out loud like a euphemism, an angry word, or something you might regret, hide this verse in your heart:
Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
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