Random Ramblings - Cursing & the use of God's name in Vain

By | 06:30:00 2 comments
It was recently suggested by anonymous that I address issues of "language, swearing, cursing and worst of all taking the Lord's name in vain."
Let me apologise for the length of this post, I felt it necessary in order to give an incling of justice to the topic.

First, what I would say is that personally 'bad language' or taking God's name in vain have not been an issue to me for many years.
I went through a phase when I was about 5 years old when I would ride around Culcavey swearing with any word I knew, then before going home I would ease my conscience by praying "Lord forgive me for saying that bad word, Amen" (much like an incantation or like Superteds secret & magic word).

I was not a Christian, but being brought up in a Christian home I knew there was a God that was offended by this. One night my mum asked me to pray after reading a Bible story to us, and I guess 'that' prayer had become so ingrained in my mind over the weeks that without thought I started "Lord forgive me for saying that bad word..." ...I never reached Amen as my mum trailed me across her knee and taught me that sin has consequence.

And I have not had any inclination to curse etc since... ...even when I am under stress or injured.

But here are my thoughts on this topic:

Cursing Defined
I believe that a 'curse' word is any word that is deemed as unsavoury, foul or offensive. Here's how one dictionary defines it:
"to swear at; use profane, blasphemous, or obscene language against; to bring evil or injury on; afflict."

Does the Bible talk about cursing, filthy talk etc?
The answer is yes, here are a few examples from Scripture.

"But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth." Colossians 3:8.

" Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." Ephesians 4:29.

"in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you." Titus 2:7-8

One of the more surprising verses about the use of words such as this topic is about is in Matthew 5:22 when Jesus warns against calling anyone 'raca' which many scholars agree was a Hebrew 'swear word' & a term meaning (in watered down form) 'Empty Head, Stupid, Useless, Worthless'.
What's surprising isn't that we are told not to call someone these things, Everyone is after all made in the image of God and so bears some value & ought not to be called such things, rather the surprise is that Jesus actually said the word: 'Raca'.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what to do about this, but didn't feel that I could skip this while writing this post. What I would feel this points to is that the heart & motive behind the use of any word, is perhaps the biggest issue at stake here.

For example I could call my son a wingnutt & be messing around, meaning nothing more than he's being a messer & I'm finding him fun to watch. However if someone were to step on my toe (for example) I could blurt out, in anger "you wingnutt" & so I am guilty of giving this term the same heart & motive as "Raca" which we are warned against using.

What defines a 'swear word' as a 'swear word'?
The Bible doesn't give us a list of words that we can and cannot say so we cannot look up a chapter or verse to see what fit the categories of "filthy language".
Rather I believe that God has left it this way so that as new words and language are created or formed, words that society itself deem as unrespectable or offensive come under God's Word & Jesus' call for Christians to avoid the use of them in their speech.
I believe that God has left it this way because if He had given a list of 'off-limit words' then someone would begin using a similar word with the same intent (which is tried by many as it is).

Same word - Different Meanings
There may be some cultural allowance for the use of words that other cultures or subcultures may deem as cursing. For example if I were to go to a dog show everyone would be referring to female dogs as bitches, yet when that same word is used elsewhere it takes a new meaning & ought to be avoided by Christians as Paul has told us in Col 3:8.

New Words
Over recent years I've seen the use of made up swear words in film or TV series that have unfortunately made their way off screen & onto the tongues of some Christians. To be honest about ourselves as Christians, we have a tendency to take the letter of the law and forget the heart, (much like the Pharisees of Jesus day), when we should be careful of both. God knows both the words of our lips & the intent of our hearts, which ought to bring careful thought about the use of 'flip'; 'Freck' or 'sugar' as a weird attempt to curse without cursing.
Again our motive & heart behind the use of these terms is the main issue, after all we are warned that 'out of the abundance of the heart, so the mouth speaks.'

How We Speak in General
I believe that we, as Christians are called by God to be careful with our language, not simply with the avoiding of curse words, but with the intent & heart of our language & tones etc as we communicate with others.
This was made clear to me by John Newton who pointed to Ephesians 4:15 telling us that Scripture not only tells us what to speak - the Truth, but also the manner in which we are to speak - in love.

Sadly we can come, even with truth on our lips in a way that both hurts others & dishonours Christ.
[There will be times when people are offended by the message we bring, but our means, our approach and our methods ought to be as non-offensive & as loving as we can make them. Sure there may be times when we need to respond with boldness, but we ought not to have a mean spirit or angry way with us!
Just to make it very clear – I am not saying that we water down the Gospel at all, to say that our approach and methods and attitudes ought to be of love and grace and not offensive is not to say that we are to compromise God’s Word!]

Taking God's name in Vain
There are two things that we can mean by this:

1st and most popular, is the use of the word 'God' in a phrase or sentence - 'oh my...' for example.
Personally I believe that this aspect of it falls into the category of 'cursing' as dealt with above. And having seen Christians in other countries use this term in what seemed Christ honouring ways and as a longing for Christ to intervene in a situation I tend to ask about the intent of ones heart when using it.
Agreed, this term is mostly used as an exclamation, in such a way that is generally a term of cursing etc.

The 2nd way that we can define this term is that someone takes the name of the Lord in vain - meaning they take upon themselves His name, claiming to be His child when they are not.
This is when someone says they are a Christian yet remain unrepentant & unbelieving, and are in actual fact a non-christian & do not know Jesus as saviour & Lord.

This would be like me claiming to be a child of the Queen, and would be totally in vain as there is absolutely no truth in it.
God takes it serious when someone claims to be part of His family, and there are many who believe that they are His yet will hear those terrible words:
'Depart from me, I never knew you', even after they have done many things in His name.

God gave the command to Israel that they should not take His name in vain, that they should not take upon themselves the high calling to have God as Father & Lord if it were to be simple lip service & hold no meaning to their lives.

Today, we are called as Christians to speak words of encouragement, that will build up & encourage those around us as well as pour praise & glory unto Christ as Lord. We are told by Scripture to avoid any language or manner that is offensive or obscene, and yet to uncompromisingly preach the truth in love.

And God wants a pure Church, a group of believers who do not simply call themselves Christians paying mere lip-service, but who actually take their new name & position in the family of God serious.

I know that this post is rather long & jumbled - please forgive that -
I think that this is something that Driscoll may be dealing with at this years Desiring God conference so keep an eye out for that,

What would you add to this?

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relevant? said...

Great post Boaly!

Boaly said...

Thanks Bro'. Its quite a long post though, even after editing and cutting it down.
There's alot more could probably be said about this topic.
Guess thats why the comments section is good - It can be added to by all