The question was asked in such an innocent tone as the small group was wrapping up for the night. I paused, knowing there was probably a “right” way to answer that question. (Side note: what an obvious sign of not living in the freedom of Christ if I’m considering what humanity has told me is the ‘right’ answer before I consider what God has to say.)
I’m sure it was in a leadership handbook of some sort before, and maybe I missed it — The Guide to Being a “Good Christian”.
I hesitated and then proceeded to say, “Well, what does Scripture say?”
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 NIV
So I guess the question then becomes, are certain swear words unwholesome by themselves or are they simply aiding unwholesome talk for emphasis?
I would argue the latter.
We tend to get so tied up in specific sins that we neglect to go one level deeper and see the heart behind it — which is really more problematic or telling than anything else.
Would it be unwholesome to say “F**k yes!” when asked if you want to go to dinner somewhere? If you say yes, tell me why.
Would it be helpful or building up? Eh, maybe not explicitly building up but it’s certainly not degrading, AND I would argue it is helpful because the emphasis tells me that you’re REALLY excited to go to dinner. It’s basic human communication 101, and without extra expression, I may miss that you really do WANT to go. (From the viewpoint of someone who struggles to fully express excitement)
One girl chimed in with, “It’s not good to say F Yes because ‘All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.’” (Quoting Matthew 5:37)
What say you to that? In this section of Scripture, Jesus is talking about oaths, and the verses previously say to not swear by God or Heaven or on your own head because you have no control over these things and therefore, the oath is meaningless. Then we get to Matthew 5:37. He is encouraging us to not promise beyond what we can confidently abide by — it has nothing to do with swear words.
When I hear someone say “F**k yes”, I feel their passion eek through their words, and there’s a connection because of their willingness to express themselves and their excitement or passion.
It breaks the barriers of human properness and brings us to true human connection. Why would we want to diminish that?
I struggle with this one, I’ll admit. I don’t ever want to take the Lord’s name in vain — that was grilled into me from infancy, but I question the difference between this and “oh my God” — that which I have no qualms with.
In regards to OMG, it feels more like I’m either crying out for God (most often the case) or inviting God into the situation. I know that sounds like a reach or just silly, but it’s most often true. And any way you can take a regular, every day occurrence and turn it into a Spiritual Practice of inviting God into the moment should be praised — but again, it has to be the heart of it.
Never, ever, not once in my life have I said OMG or GD with some sort of malicious thought toward God — not once. So I beg the question again — is this by itself unwholesome or is it unwholesome when used with certain connotations?
Now, are there other word choices that we could use instead? Of course.
I find that those who cuss like a sailor often just don’t have a broad vocabulary to find another word. In some ways, if you swear in every other sentence, I would argue you lack creativity, but you aren’t sinning.
“F**k you” is a whole different story. Any words AT ALL, defined as swear words or not, that degrade or bring potential harm to another person is absolutely unacceptable.
I say that being quite guilty of this sin daily.
I’m not sure where you can find it in God’s Word and even in His character to argue that it’s okay to trash talk other people (or Creation) in any way, but especially with emphasized words.
Final Final Words
Just like all things in life, I think it would be prudent of us to consider others. In regards to alcohol, we should guard ourselves in our habits around those who may struggle with alcohol. We do the same for cursing. Just like alcohol isn’t a sin explicitly but there are boundaries that we need to guard against, so too with cussing.
Just don’t get so hell-bent on being a perfect little Christian that you can’t have a damn good time every now and then and express yourself freely, the way God would f**king want you to. (Word filtered to be considerate of those reading who are more sensitive to cussing.)