Have you ever thought that there is good swearing and there is bad swearing? Making a serious promise and talking dirty are both called swearing. Why?
Swearing is a good thing, it is serious promise-making, but when a good thing is perverted or distorted then it becomes a bad thing, and so it is with swearing. Realizing the evil roots of perverted swearing helps us understand why we use the term swearing for dirty speech.
Hebrews 6:16 says; For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.
Good swearing and bad swearing are connected. Let me explain: The passage here says swearing is calling on something greater to witness or to verify what we are saying. Why do we call the use of sexual terms and excremental terms—dirty talk—why do we call that swearing, if swearing and oaths are calling on something greater?
Calling on something greater is what holy, godly people do. Calling on something other than God or lesser than God is what unholy, ungodly people do—people who are in willful rebellion to God. Like so many other things it becomes a perverted substitute for what God designed.
Swearing by what is higher is evidence of a heart that regards God, so intentionally swearing on something that is low or base is an act of rebellion against God. It is shows in irreverence at the least or distain for God.
You may say, “That’s not what I mean when I swear.” Perhaps not, though Christ said that your words are from the overflow of your heart. If you have learned the language of those who are have turned against God, how long will it be before you learn their ways? What does it tell you about the temperature and the trajectory of your heart? Why, if you are devoted to God, and if your tongue and heart are consecrated to God, would you want to use the speech of those who are in rebellion against God?
A Personal Example
When I was in the third grade and a student at Springfield Elementary School in Battle Creek, Michigan. I began to pick up on the language around me. Sometimes the words were in my secret thoughts. Sometimes I uttered them. To this day I’m sure my parents do not know this. My soul was laden with real guilt about it. It troubled me. I prayed about it. I would go to bed at night and my conscience would be troubled. I would pray for God to forgive me and help me. Within a few months God delivered me from thinking in swear words or uttering them. I was about eight or nine years old.
All Sin is Dangerously Contagious
Don’t ever forget how contagious sin can be. Sin is contagious and deadly and the human heart is a perfectly suited host for that disease to grow. It is easy to be pulled down in into the degenerate, degraded forms of swearing that come when people blasphemously reject God and profane his name. That is why we need to be very careful about the company we keep and the media we choose. This is especially true when we are at leisure or when we are seeking diversion or entertainment. If we are involved in ministry we usually go as a team and we prepared ourselves in prayer and our objectives are clear.
When we are resting or relaxed or seeking pleasure, diversion or entertainment we are less likely to have our discernment filters ready. There is the legitimate danger of contamination when we are in close proximity to evil. After a while if we are not careful our hearts begin to sympathize with forms of evil around us. We are called to be in the world, so we must be willing to be exposed to those who are in the grip of evil, but we have to have a continual inner resistance to that evil or we will eventually embrace it.
It is foolish to develop a taste for it and intentionally expose ourselves to it unnecessarily in our choice of media or in our choice of companions in our leisure time.
Can I suggest you ask God to deliver you from substitute swearing?
Mild substitute swear words we often call minced oaths… are the kindergarten of rebellion against God. They are the introduction to substitute swearing that is deeply depraved calling on excremental terms, sexual terms, and even the terms of sexual perversions to strengthen ones words. These are simply ways to willfully and rebelliously circumvent speaking simple truth before God… You should be able to see that, though our culture is descending into that darkness, the children of light should never adopt the language of the sons of disobedience and the workers of darkness. When they do something tragic is happening. That is of evil, Jesus said.
Try Thanksgiving Instead
Paul had some very strong words about corrupt speech and a practical suggestion about how to drive it out of your life. In Ephesians 5 he suggested that whenever we are tempted to use corrupt speech we substitute thanksgiving in it’s place. (Eph. 5:4)
So when is swearing good and when is swearing bad?
Lawful swearing is a promise or covenant where you are calling on the name of God or reminding people of our accountability to God. Ungodly swearing is when you call on God or something that belongs to God as a confidence scheme or when you try to strengthen or enforce your promises using God’s name irreverently.
An especially perverse form of swearing and oath-uttering is when you show contempt for God’s glory and his name buy trying to use excremental or sexual language or the language of sexual perversion to strengthen your statements.
Ephesians 5:3-5 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
The Pastor’s Study
Evangel Baptist Church—Taylor, Michigan
February 10, 2012
Footnote: I have been informed in my thinking by reading R.J.Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law (Pages 108-110). That reading is reflected in this article.