Is Cursing a Sin?

One of the most subtle ways of lowering America’s standards of morality and decency is the increasingly public use of cursing and profanity. Yes, there are laws against the use of foul, filthy language in public, but these laws are not enforced.

Consequently, young people are subjected to the kind of speech which lowers man to the level of animals and makes a mockery of belief in God. At the same time, they are taught that cursing and filthy language are all right. It is not.

What is Cursing?

Cursing is a broad term for two basic kinds of profanity: (1) Taking the name of the Lord God in vain, and (2) Making vulgar, guttural references to human sexuality, anatomical parts and biological functions.

Taking the name of God in vain may be further defined as making any light, casual, unbelieving reference to God. Those who ask God to condemn something or someone do not have a Christian attitude toward others.

In most cases, those who condemn someone else are practical atheists, they do not believe in a God who has the power to administer eternal punishment in the first place. They mock the concept of God and the concept of damnation. Ask people, who wish condemnation on others, and you discover that most do not even believe in a literal “Hell.” They make a mockery of a place the Bible says does exist.

Individuals for years have made vulgar references to sex and the human body. But only in recent years have these references been brought out into the public light through the mass media and electronic communications.

The Growth of Cursing

For centuries, vulgarity was used primarily by the unlearned – those who never learned to read or had little or no education. They picked up such words from other unlearned people, some of them in the backwoods areas of our country. Those with the privilege of education did not use such language – at least not in public. Originally, the media would not reproduce curse words in print. The danger was that women and children would see or hear such words and be made vile because of them.

This appears to have been a fear that was justified. Today, many women and children think they are more socially acceptable when using every vile word. Children are applauded by other children on the streets of our cities when they come up with a lewd reference to sex.

The mass media – newspapers, radio, motion pictures – made themselves slowly available to spread filthy language worldwide. Until 1938, moviegoers were not subjected to vulgarity; it all began – as they shockingly discovered – with the movie “Gone With the Wind,” in which Clark Gable cursed in the presence of Vivian Leigh. That started a snowballing effect in using profanity in movies; now, the situation is hopeless. Even movies suggested for general audiences contain vile and lewd words.

Examples of Cursing

Television has popularized “God’s name” to mean a general emotional outburst when something shocking has been discovered. Yet, when a person utters this phrase, rarely is he even thinking of God – he is using the holy name of God in a light, irreverent manner. Centuries ago, the Jewish people feared even to write the letters “Jehovah” because this was the holy name of God, to be treated with all reverence and respect. And now God’s name is thrown around with no sense of decency.

Why is Cursing Wrong

The basic reason cursing is wrong is because God says it is wrong. Furthermore, he puts great emphasis on the seriousness of cursing.

Exodus 20:7, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Jesus also repeated the prohibition against using God’s name in vain in Matthew 5:33-37, “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”

What God Says About Cursing

1. God says cursing and filthy language is wrong because it lowers His holy name to the level of sinful man. “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou are mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalm 8:4,5). God is a holy God (I Peter 1:16), Leviticus 11:44), and His name must be treated with the utmost respect. When Moses asked the question, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, what is his name? what shall I say unto them,” God answered, “I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:13,14). To use his name lightly, or to degrade His name is foolish (Psalm 14:1).

2. God says cursing and filthy language is wrong because it lowers the beautiful relationship between a husband and wife to the level of animals. Animals do not properly love; they physically reproduce. It is impossible for humans outside the marriage bond to love one another in physical sex. God breathed into man the breath of life and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Perfect love is reflected when a man loves another human being – his wife – as Christ Himself loved the church and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). For human beings, sexual relationships are beautiful and holy – in marriage. Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” To use vile words for the sexual relationship is a sin against God.

3. God says cursing is wrong because it destroys the sacredness of the human body. I Corinthians 6:19,20 says, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” The body is so sacred that to look upon the nakedness of another is strictly forbidden (Leviticus 18). The Bible says, “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:3,4). To use vile, filthy words to describe natural biological functions of the body also violates Scripture.

God’s Word exhorts us, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Jesus Christ never swore or cursed. Those who heard Him were astonished at His doctrine, “For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:29). He was meek and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29). By accepting Him as Lord of your life, you become a partaker of the divine nature, “having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Peter 1:4). You are raised into newness of life (Romans 6:4); you are a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:1).

The Lord Jesus Christ has the power to rid a person of the vile sin of cursing and filthy speech.

God’s Holy Name – Why Misusing His Name is Wrong

Taking God’s name in vain disobeys a biblical command. Taking God’s name in vain is commonly identified as cursing and is prohibited in the Scriptures. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Exod. 20:7). On at least six occasions in the Book of Leviticus, Moses writes, “Neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God” (Lev. 18:21, 19:12; 20:3; 21:6; 22:2, 32). That book of the Bible which teaches most about the holiness of God is also that book that reminds us most definitely not to curse.

Commandments are Created Equal

Christians tend to classify certain commands its more important than others. Actually, it is our duty as Christians to obey all commanded (Luke 17:10). We also sometimes wrongly classify sins in terms of what we would never do and those that God understands we will sometimes do.

For many Christians, cursing is one of those understandable sins.” They would be surprised to realize that God banned this practice in the context of prohibiting child sacrifices and just before forbidding homosexuality and bestiality (Lev. 18:21-24). In the mind of God, these things were serious enough to cause him to cast out the pagan nations which at that time inhabited the Promised Land.

The Old Testament Priesthood & Cursing

Cursing is not becoming of priests. Moses was instructed to advise Aaron, Israel’s first priest, “that they profane not my holy name” (Lev. 22:2). The priest was that individual who represented the people before God. The chief ministry of the priest was prayer. He naturally had a higher view of God than the typical Jew. God specifically told the priest not to desecrate God’s name.

The New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers. Every Christian has access by prayer to God directly through the blood of Jesus (Heb. 4:14-16). We are a part of the “royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:8). Just as the Old Testament priest had the highest view of God, so the New Testament priest should have a high view of God. If the Christian “priest” correctly understands who God is, he will not take his name in vain.

Cursing Hurts

Cursing may produce detrimental associations. Many practice cursing or using minced oaths (using a slang word as a swear word such as, darn for damn) in association with God.

Some even find swearing or minced oaths somewhat entertaining. The Bible identifies those that curse differently. David said, “Thine enemies take thy name in vain” (Ps. 139:20). When a Christian curses, he identifies himself with the enemy of God.

Cursing is also a characteristic of “desperate men.” During the Great Tribulation, men who have rejected Christ as Savior will panic in the midst of God’s judgment and blaspheme God’s name (Rev. 16:9).

When God allowed Satan to try Job, Job’s wife considered the situation desperate and advised Job to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). The Christian should not panic amid a desperate situation. “Fret not thyself” (Ps. 37:1) is a command every Christian must obey daily.

Stay Holy, Don’t Curse

Cursing is incompatible with personal holiness. God told redeemed Israel, “Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev. 18:2). In the New Testament, Peter taught his converts, “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [life]” (1 Pet. 1:15).

A Christian cannot practice consistent personal holiness and curse. “They shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God” (Lev. 21:6). It is incompatible to try to live for God in our lifestyle and dishonor his name in our speech.

Paul charged the Jews in Rome that “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you” (Rom. 2:24). He was not here accusing these Jews of cursing but rather of inconsistent lives.

While they were concerned about keeping certain laws, they were also slack about observing others; their inconsistency in the name of God being dishonored. Because of the One that name represents and what it stands for, a Christian must never dishonor the name of God, verbally or otherwise.


But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44).

In this passage, Jesus specifically instructs the believer to bless them that curse you and do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that … persecute you. Another passage that gives clarity to the fact that a Christian should not curse another individual is found in Romans 12:14: Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. In addition to these passages, another passage relates directly to the fact that it would be very wrong and unchristian-like for a believer to curse another individual:

Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be (James 3:9, 10).

Thus, we see that a Christian whose mouth is used to curse and condemn others while praising God lacks credibility and a Godly spirit. Therefore, any Christian who would curse another individual, whether saved or unsaved, certainly would display a shallow Christian witness and a definite unchristian-like attitude.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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