Ooh, swearing. That’s quite the interesting topic to bring up for discussion, because people have such varying opinions about it. Some people avoid swearing like the plague, and others do it all the time. Others have mental lists of which ones are ‘too bad to say’ and which are fine, and still others merely save them all up for the big occasions as if they were scared that they’d use up their ‘swearing allowance’ before they really needed it.
A lot of people use verses like these to argue against swearing:
2 Timothy 2:16 – “But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.”
Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but only what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”
And while those are good arguments against swearing, I don’t think that’s the whole picture. What about the ‘idle’ part of ‘profane and idle babblings’, or the ‘only’ in ‘only what is good for necessary edification’? The problem I have with just quoting verses like the two above is it seems like people seem to just take and obey the letter of the law, and not the spirit of the law. (Which also means that people can try and justify coarse language in spite of the above verses because they don’t think their favorite coarse words ‘fit into any of the categories mentioned’ and so they must be okay.)
What I mean is, these verses aren’t just talking about swear words. It’s talking more about the attitude behind them. Let’s look a little closer at some definitions, shall we?
Profane – to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt: desecrate; to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use.
Idle – lacking worth or basis: vain.
Corrupt – having or showing lowered moral character or standards; rotten – putrid or decomposing.
None of these definitions directly indicate swearing. (Although granted, ‘profane’ comes pretty close…) They really just paint a picture for us, both of speech patterns, and the attitudes behind them. And both are important. It’s not just about swearing. It’s about your heart. Because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. (Matthew 12:34)
Oh, and by the way, I said those definitions painted a picture of speech patterns – not swearing – for a reason. Why? Because swearing isn’t the only kind of speech that fits those definitions. What about complaining? Or criticism? (Well, certain kinds of criticism. There is good criticism. It’s called ‘constructive’ criticism.) In fact, negativity in general seems to fit in. Something to chew on. If you really think about it, unless your words are good for necessary edification and impart grace to the hearers, they fit the ‘don’t-say’ list. (Incidentally, right after I typed that my little brother started hollering for me and interrupted my train of thought, and I had to seriously rethink how I responded to him. Talk about practicing what I preach! [And right after I typed that, my computer froze and then restarted itself on me before I could save the document. Thank God for autosave! Still, it gave me another attitude test, that’s for sure!])
So I guess it really all boils down to this:
1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”
We are meant to glorify our Creator, and if our speech patterns are not doing so, they need to go. And that applies to all our speech, not just swearing. But, OUCH is that hard! The tongue is one of the easiest things to be careless with. And I for one am very bad about watching what I say and how I say it. Ugh. That’s why I need this verse:
Psalm 141:3 – “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”