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When I played basketball growing up, swearing was pretty commonplace. When I used to use drugs and alcohol, it was the same story. It took much prayer and effort to stop swearing even though I knew for sure I no longer wanted to, but the habit seemed to stick with me for a little longer. ~ Bill Greguska
And the often heard, “Oh my God!” Is that using God’s name in vain?
Jesus explained that what comes out of our mouths is that which fills our hearts. At some point or another, the evil in the heart comes out through the mouth in curses and swearing. But when our hearts are filled with the goodness of God, praise for Him and love for others will pour forth.
Why is it a sin to swear? Sin is a condition of the heart, the mind, and “the inner man” (Romans 7:22), manifested in our thoughts, actions, and words. When we swear and curse, we give evidence of the evil and pollution in our hearts that must be confessed and repented. When we put our faith in Christ, we receive a new nature from God (2 Corinthians 5:17), our hearts are transformed, and our speech reflects the new life God has created within us (Romans 12:1–2). But thank God that when we fail, God is still “faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
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, 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 a 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 euphemism is where one word is substituted for another. When people say “gheeze” or “jeez,” they are replacing these words as euphemisms. These are euphemisms for Jesus’ name. They might not think they are swearing, but even using names as a substitution is considered a sin. When someone says, “Darn!” or “Darn it!“ they are 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.
What Does Taking His Name In Vain Means?
Taking His name in vain means using it in a careless, useless, or meaningless way. 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 a sin as well.
Can The Tongue Be Tamed
Yes, it can be tamed! Even though 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 rage 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.”
Venom And Poison From Heart
James has almost an entire chapter dedicated to the tongue and its power to do both good and do evil. Remember that James, the half-brother of Christ, is writing to Christians. He speaks of the deadly venom that the tongue can spew 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. 1 Can both freshwater and saltwater 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.”
Words of Grace Instead
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 evil. They hold the power of life and death. When given a 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.
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness.” Proverbs 31:26
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
“With his mouth, the Godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge, the righteous escape.” Proverbs 11:9
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25
“The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction.” Proverbs 16:21
“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.” Proverbs 16:22-23
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.”
A Bad Habit To Break!
Breaking the swearing habit might prove to be a challenge — no more comfortable than losing weight, giving up cigarettes, or correcting any other addiction. It takes much prayer, practice, support from others, and a sincere desire to be a better person — not only by controlling your language but the emotions that prompt you to swear. Here are a few exercises to condition yourself:
Think in clean language, and switch negative thoughts into positive solutions.
When you are on your way to a situation, you know it will test your temper and tongue, plan what you will say and how you will say it.
Tell your family or friends what you are doing, and you will be more cautious around them.
Determine when and why you swear the most, and develop your tricks for changing your behavior.