CURSING, MINCED OATHS AND PROFANITY
By Curtis Pugh
Each child of God wrestles with sin. James makes it clear that the tongue is a source of great evil – one that no man can tame. He wrote: “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell,” (James 3:5-6). So it is that by use of this little member of our bodies we sin, stir up trouble, hurt those whom we love, etc. By our tongues we harm our testimony and even more importantly, we dishonor and even blaspheme God. But the words of James are not to be taken as an excuse for unholy language as other Scriptures demonstrate. No man has the ability to tame his tongue, true, but God's enabling by grace can make the tongue an instrument for Him!
Among professing Christians there are those who think nothing of speaking God's name in vain. “O my God” seems to be a currently acceptable phrase in the speech of many – even among some who claim to know the Lord. Popular Media often portrays it as “OMG.” Among some professing Christians few seem to be concerned about their language. Others who would not take the Lord's name in vain do, however, resort to minced oaths. A minced oath is defined thus: “A minced oath is a euphemistic expression formed by misspelling, mispronouncing, or replacing a part of a profane, blasphemous, or taboo term to reduce the original term's objectionable characteristics. Some examples include gosh, darn, dang, and heck. Many languages have such expressions. In the English language, nearly all profanities have minced variants.”
The problem with minced oaths is this: they are not any less serious offences because they come from the same source and betray the same motives as do full-fleged oaths. Not only that, they mean the same thing. A euphemism is just another way of saying the same thing, often in a supposedly less offensive way. And their meaing is the same as full-blown cursing whether one realizes it or not. The Lord Himself said, “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil,” (Matthew 5:37). The English language contains a myriad of such minced oaths which the children of God should avoid using.
Then there is the matter of profanity or vulgar speech. Someone said “profanity is a weak mind seeking to express itself forcefully.” It may be, but to resort to blasphemy or even profanity dishonors God. Surely no one will argue that such language is not sinful. “Profanity, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is... 'offensive language'". The word profane comes from two Latin words - “pro” and “fanum” - literally before the temple, that is outside the temple. Profanity, then, can be understood as words a person would not use in a temple or church. Vulgar terms include gross words – words not suitable for polite or mixed company. Often these may be common terms used for bodily functions, sexual acts and the like. Sadly, while in years past those who resorted to such vulgarisms would refrain from using them in the presence of women and children – and sometimes preachers – today even women resort to such terms and think nothing of hearing them. We question whether or not this is advancement in our society!
We who understand that we are always before our God ought not to think that words are less sinful if spoken outside the gathering of God's people. There are words that are inappropriate regardless of what society thinks! God says His children are to, “...have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret,” (Ephesians 5:11-12). Some things are base, dishonorable and disgraceful even to be spoken about as the word “shame” means. The Holy Spirit through Paul instructed the congregation at Colossee in these words: “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man,” (Colossians 4:5-6). “Speech alway with grace:” here it seems that our speech is tied directly to our witness to “them that are without” - i.e. the lost. How can we issue forth the sweet water of the message of salvation by grace if our tongues are a fountain of bitter water? “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (James 3:11).Let us refrain from “cussing,” from profanity and from common or vulgar language. God says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers,” (Ephesians 4:29). Those words are not directed to preachers only, but to the whole congregation in Ephesus. And they are certainly applicable to us today! Oh that our words would always “minister grace unto the hearers.” Oh that our speech was always “good to the use of edifying” - that we might strengthen our Brethren and they us by our words before one another. Rather than our tongues being “... a fire, a world of iniquity,” so “...that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell,” (James 3:6), may God give us grace and by it a consistent personal determination that every word we speak “may minister grace unto the hearers.” Selah!
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726