What the #%&@!

What the hell?

Why do Evangelicals have such a problem with cursing?

Does the Bible say that we shouldn’t cuss?

Who decided what words are curse words?

Where did cursing come from?

Who picked certain words to be “bad” and others to be “good”?

Words are various combinations of letters. Nothing more. Where do they get their meaning? We give meaning to words on a cultural basis. And different cultures judge the morality of words in different ways.

And as culture changes, so do the meaning of words in that culture. This is why the meanings of words change over time. The word “literally” means something different today than it meant just ten years ago. Ten years ago it literally meant “literally”. Now, it literally means the opposite. We use the word “literally” to mean “figuratively” today.

When someone uses “LOL” they are almost certainly NOT laughing out loud.

Since it’s culture that determines the meaning of words, words have a different meaning in different cultures. Which means words are deemed as appropriate and inappropriate by different cultures. In England, the word “bloody” is a curse word. If you are in England and you say “bloody nose”, you are cursing. Saying the same thing in America carries no such connotation.

Can cursing be that bad if it’s different in different countries?

Yes. The Bible talks quite a bit about the words we speak. And Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

Are curse words a heart issue? Does cussing, as defined by culture, indicate a heart problem? I don’t think so.

It’s not words that have been deemed “wrong” by the culture that are issues of the heart. It is words of hate that we should be offended by; dark words that cut and hurt and mock and tear down are the words we should condemn and avoid.

We call “bad words” cursing, but the real cursing is the judgment we pronounce on other people. Even people we have never met and don’t know their hearts.

We curse people when we label them and wish evil on them. We curse when we spread hate and evil. Calling someone an “idiot” is much closer to cursing than saying “shit.”

For the record, I believe that you should teach your children not to say “shit”; you should also teach them not to call someone an “idiot.”

The issue I have is we focus on the first word but don’t really give very much thought to the second word. But Jesus said that if you call your brother a fool you were “in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22).

Mark Driscoll used to be known as the “cussing preacher”, mostly because of Donald Miller’s book “Blue Like Jazz”, but I don’t think that’s a good thing. I don’t really think that’s what a preacher should be known for. But if a preacher happens to use a cuss word in church, I don’t think he is in danger of hellfire.

I’m far more concerned about a preacher who speaks hate than a preacher who cusses; I think that should be our attitude with everyone.

About Matthew Thisse

Matthew Thisse is a Jesus follower, single father, associate pastor, and corporate trainer. He is a former Evangelical and a failed fundamentalist.

One Reply

  1. Craig bubeck

    Dallas Willard has a similar take on this (which I like), especially in terms of the far more serious concern of hateful or abusive language assailing neighbors (in Divine Conspiracy). Well said.

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