Skip to main content

"Why Profanity Matters"

Using profane language has become commonplace in society today. You hear it everywhere--including places like church or small group. Why? Why is cussing no longer seen as a problem to Christians? Why is our language no longer carefully considered before we open our mouths to speak? I've learned a lot about language and word choice in speech path and linguistics. Trust me, the words you use determine a lot about the way people think about you and their opinions of you. If you're a Christian, everything you say and do should reflect Christ. Do you really think using profanity is the best reflection of Jesus Christ to the world? Think about it. 

Why Profanity Matters by Alex McFarland
Magic Mountain, an amusement park in Southern California, is known for a roller coaster named X. Coincidentally, I was there to speak at a youth event when I overheard an X-rated conversation—between churched teens no less. It prompted me to address the issue from stage. I asked, "How many of you struggle with using bad language?" Many hands went up. I followed up with questions we've all probably considered at some point: Is it wrong for a Christian to use curse words? If so, why? And what makes profanity, well, profane?

Entertainment is full of swear words, sexual innuendo and scatological slang. I recently read a study of prime-time TV in which the Parents Television Council found more than 11,000 expletives—nearly twice as many as in 1998. Indeed, in our coarsening culture, some young people can't recall a time when f-bombs weren't part of "normal" discourse. Kids use it because they've grown up hearing profanity and having it reinforced by the media. And somehow it becomes a personal habit that even Christian teens may consider acceptable in certain situations.

I've heard people argue that words are just noises we make. They're sounds. They don't really mean anything. But such a position is contradictory. To deny the power of language one must debate with … words. And those combinations of letters and sounds require meaning to be grasped. You have to assume that, objectively, your listener understands what you're saying. We can't get around the fact that words contain meaning.

Words also yield consequences. For proof that language matters, consider that we have an entire lexicon associated with their misuse: fraud, slander, libel, perjury, harassment, defamation. The ways people abuse words have social, psychological, legal and even spiritual implications. 

All to Jesus I Surrender
The Bible reminds us that we should speak in ways that honor God and benefit others. Ephesians 4:29 says, "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." James 1:26 warns us to keep a tight rein on our tongues, while Colossians 3:8 says, "Rid yourselves of all things such as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips."

Regarding the use of coarse language by believers, some people contend that since Christ has made us free, how we say things doesn't really matter. While salvation sets us free from the penalty of sin, freedom doesn't equal license. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that Christians have an obligation to pursue holiness (Eph. 4:24; Titus 2; 1 Pet. 1:13-15 and 2:24).

Indeed, God's ownership of a believer extends even to the words we use. According to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we're mere stewards. Jesus Christ owns us lock, stock and barrel. That includes mind and mouth. Discipleship and spiritual maturity require a level of obedience that should find us yielding everything to God. 

Judged by the Words We Use
Teens should submit their vocabularies to the lordship of Christ, in part because God is always listening. His grace is perfect, but if words didn't matter Jesus wouldn't have said, "I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matt. 12:36-37).

We derive our word profanity from a biblical term that means "outside the temple." Profane means "unholy" or "unwholesome." As we saw in Ephesians 4:29, some types of speech are literally unholy. Spouting certain four-letter words can hinder spiritual growth, harm relationships with others and undermine our credibility as bearers of Gospel truth. 

Christians possess an advantage by having a pure well of words from which to draw. Years ago, as a new believer working my way through college, a superior noticed that I didn't tell off-color jokes or use foul language like others in the workplace. Not only did this create a witnessing opportunity, but I was promoted to a level that no 21-year-old had ever held in that company. My boss later told me that my habit of avoiding profanity convinced him that I must be honest, and this led him to promote me. 

Every communicator has thousands of words at his or her disposal. In the quest for individuality and self-expression, there's no shortage of raw material. Teens need to talk! Comment! Express! Emote! But only in ways that speak well of themselves and of their Savior.

Alex McFarland is Plugged In's teen apologetics expert. For more on his ministry and speaking schedule,


  1. Bless you sir! Well said. I am copying this article for several young people I know, many whom claim to be Chrisian.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Exciting news!!

It's been awhile since I've written a blog post. This semester has been busy--not only because of school stuff, but also because of exciting life things. About a month ago, the most amazing man got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! And of course, I said yes!

Honestly, there were times that I questioned if I would ever marry someone. Living with cystic fibrosis is hard. Choosing to be with someone with cystic fibrosis is almost crazy. Think about it; I am not a normal 23 year old. I have to plan and plan and plan to make sure I fit breathing treatments, exercise, and eating into my schedule. When I travel, I have to take a crazy amount of stuff with me--my Vest, nebulizers, compressor, pills, inhaled medication, puffers, and snacks. I have to make sure I sleep 8-9 hours a night because my body uses more energy than most, and I need sleep to fight infection. I have to have a course of IVs at least twice a year. It's hard to be spontaneous and adventurous because CF…

CF limits

I was always told I could do anything.

That CF couldn't stop me.

That, even though my day to day life looked a little different with treatments and pills and hospitalizations, I could still be "normal".

I'm finding out now that's not necessarily the case.

Growing up, I knew I was different, but I still functioned like a normal kid. The only time I remember CF limiting me was my freshman and sophomore years in high school. My doctor, mom, and I made the decision to sit out of marching band my freshman year and to keep me on the sidelines running the metronome and helping how I could without actually participating my sophomore year. Junior year I was finally able to join marching band, and my senior year I was a drum major, so CF didn't limit me that much by the end of it all. I finished college in four years with a major, a minor, honors, and summa cum laude. I am in grad school now and will graduate on time summa cum laude with my masters in speech pathology.…

The false narrative

Today I was at church with my parents. After the baby dedication, the pastor prayed over the families. It was a fine prayer until he said something along the lines of "raising kids in a Christian home is the best way to ensure kids grow up healthy". This is when I opened my eyes and tuned out the rest of the prayer. Honestly, this is where I tuned out the rest of the service. This false narrative is exactly why American Christianity can be so out of touch with the world.
No. No. No. This is not how God works. Yes, in a world without struggle and pain and heartache, I wouldn't have cystic fibrosis. But in our current, broken world God uses illness and weakness to prove His strength and power and love. If God wanted to heal me, I have full confidence that He could and that He would. I know there are people who have experienced divine healing. But in many cases, God uses our weaknesses rather than spontaneously healing us. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says, "But He (the Lo…