Is It a Sin to Cuss?

The Bible teaches that words are powerful. Cussing is one type of speech that some Christians wonder about because Scripture doesn’t directly mention modern swear words.

It is a sin to cuss, curse, and swear. Although the Bible doesn’t specifically mention modern swear words, saying them is a clear violation of Scripture’s commands against impure, unholy, and obscene speech. Most cuss words are sinful all the time. A few might not be considered sinful depending on their context.

Why is cussing wrong? Why are cuss words often associated with the private parts of the human body and sexual intimacy? How can a person break the habit of cussing? What Bible verses teach that cussing is wrong? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also see Is Smoking Weed A Sin? to learn more about the Bible’s teachings.

cussing is sin
What is the Greek word translated as “obscene speech”? See below

Why is cussing wrong?

Cussing refers to using obscene words, which are often associated with parts of the human body (e.g. male and female genitals) and sexual intimacy (e.g. intercourse).

Cuss words — also called curse words or swear words — are slang terms often expressed in anger or for inappropriate humor. They don’t refer to the human body or sexual intimacy in a healthy and holy manner.

What does the Bible say about cussing? Scripture commands Christians to avoid obscene talk (e.g. Col. 3:8; see more verses below). Obscene talk is any type of speech that is offensive, disgusting, and dishonors God’s creation of the body and his design for sexual intimacy. The Greek word translated “obscene” in the ESV (aischrologia) refers to “filthy speech” and “foul language.”

TranslationColossians 3:8
ESVBut now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
NIVBut now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
NLTBut now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.
KJVBut now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
NKJVBut now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.
NASBBut now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.

Why do cuss words often refer to the human body and sexual intimacy? Most cuss words are slang terms for subjects that people feel uncomfortable talking about. Some people feel embarrassed or awkward using the proper anatomical or biological terms for certain topics, so they use words that are juvenile and sophomoric.

Does the Bible forbid all talk about the body and sex? No. The Bible doesn’t prohibit healthy and holy conversations about the private parts of a human body or sexual intimacy.

Examples of healthy and holy speech include conversations with a medical doctor and parents teaching their children about the anatomy and biology of the human body.

Does context matter in determining what words are unholy? It can. Most cuss words are unhealthy and unholy all the time. A few may be considered appropriate in one context but not in another. For example, a word that most consider a cuss word today, may not have been so a century ago. The key is whether or not the speech is culturally obscene.

Also see Is Getting Drunk A Sin? to learn more about the Bible’s teachings.

swear words
How can a person break the habit of cussing? See below

How can a person stop cussing?

What if some people are in the habit of cussing? While cuss words relieve tension, due to anger or discomfort, some people simply continue to speak them out of habit. To mindlessly say cuss words, without thinking about their unhealthy and unholy nature, violates the Bible’s clear instructions. How can a person break the habit of cussing?

First, a person should consider the principle of “garbage in, garbage out.” If a person constantly subjects themselves to cuss words through movies, social media, music, and perhaps certain relationships, they will be more likely to mimic the speech in their own lives.

Of course, not all relationships can be avoided (e.g. family), yet there is wisdom in eliminating or drastically reducing exposure to hearing cuss words in daily life if a person truly wants to break the habit.

  • Proverbs 22:24-25, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.”

Second, a person should consider the principle of replacing bad thoughts with good thoughts. Rather than just trying hard to resist saying a cuss word when the temptation arises in a person’s thoughts, they can preemptively fill their thinking with holy and pure things, which will replace unholy and impure impulses.

  • Philippians 4:8 reads, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (ESV)

Third, a person can work to express their anger and attempts at humor in healthy and holy ways. Saying cuss words isn’t authentically dealing with anger, but masking it with a short outburst that dishonors God. Using cuss words to make people laugh also dishonors God.

  • 1 Timothy 4:12 reads, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

Also see Is Oral Sex A Sin? to learn more about the Bible’s teachings.

10 Bible verses about cussing

  • Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
  • Colossians 3:8, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.”
  • James 3:10, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”
  • Matthew 15:11, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
  • Matthew 12:36, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak”
  • James 5:12, “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”
  • Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
  • Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:16, “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness”
  • Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”

“In Scripture, the tongue is variously described as wicked, blasphemous, foolish, boasting, complaining, cursing, contentious, sensual and vile. And that list is not exhaustive. No wonder God put the tongue in a cage behind the teeth, walled in by the mouth!” ~ John MacArthur

Also see Is Fear A Sin? to learn more about the Bible’s teachings.

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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