What Does the Bible Say About Swearing and Cursing? Speech, Language, and Biblical Guidance

The Bible makes it clear that Christians should refrain from crude, vulgar, irreverent, and inappropriate speech. Words matter to God, and how we speak reflects the state of our hearts. Scripture commands believers to avoid swearing, cursing, profanity, obscenity, and other sinful uses of language.

The Bible prohibits taking God’s name in vain and using the tongue to tear others down. Instead, followers of Christ should speak with grace, edification, and love. This article will examine what the Bible says about swearing, cursing, inappropriate jokes, and unwholesome talk. The thesis is that God prohibits crude, vulgar, or irreverent speech from the mouths of His people.

Old Testament Teachings

Bible About Swearing and Cursing

The Old Testament contains the Ten Commandments, which were given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. The third commandment states, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). This command prohibited using God’s name in a frivolous, insincere, or disrespectful manner. God’s name was considered holy and was not to be abused or misused. Breaking this command was a serious offense with consequences (Deuteronomy 5:11).

The Old Testament provides many examples of honoring God’s name and avoiding taking it in vain. The Israelites would not even speak God’s name Yahweh, considering it too holy (Exodus 3:13-15). Psalms encourage praise, thanksgiving, and calling upon the name of the Lord (Psalm 96:2Psalm 116:13). Overall, the Old Testament established reverence for God’s name.

New Testament Teachings

The New Testament, particularly the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, give strong warnings against swearing and using oaths. Jesus teaches his followers to simply let their “yes” be yes and their “no” be no, without needing oaths to confirm what they say.

In Matthew 5:33-37, Jesus says:

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.Matthew 5:33-37”

Jesus is teaching that we should not need to swear oaths to confirm what we say, but simply let our word be trustworthy on its own. As one source summarizes: “Jesus is against hypocrisy in all its forms, and he’s for straightforwardness and transparency and honesty and responsibility in all its forms.”

Paul’s Teachings

Paul warned against unwholesome talk in Ephesians 4:29, saying “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.”

He cautioned believers to be careful with their speech and only speak words that are uplifting and edifying to others. Paul emphasized the importance of avoiding harmful words that tear people down. As Christians, our speech should aim to build others up in their faith and provide grace to those who hear us.

James’ Teachings

Swearing and Cursing in Bible

James tells believers to avoid swearing oaths in James 5:12:

But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.

James urges believers to remain patient and strong in their faith. The day of the Lord is coming (James 5:12). He instructs Christians to let their yes be yes and their no be no – to be truthful and avoid swearing oaths. Swearing oaths can lead believers to fall under judgment.

In a sermon, it’s explained that the power is in the simple yes or no (James 5:12). Swearing oaths goes beyond a simple yes or no, and can lack integrity. Believers are called to have integrity in speech.

An expository study also examines this passage (James 5:12). As Christians, we must be truthful in our communication to avoid judgment. This means letting our yes be yes and our no be no – avoiding elaborate oath swearing.

Crude Jokes and Obscenity

The Bible warns believers to avoid crude jokes, foolish talk, and obscene language. In Ephesians 5:4, Paul instructs, “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” He makes it clear that crude humor and obscene speech are inappropriate for Christians. The Greek word translated as “obscenity” refers to shameful, disgraceful talk. Commentators explain this likely refers to dirty jokes and vulgar language.

Foolish talk and coarse joking also have no place for believers. As one writer notes, “A filthy person is shameless, someone who crosses the line between what is decent and what is obscene.” Christians should be characterized by thanksgiving, not obscenity. Our speech should build others up, not tear them down with insensitive jokes or vulgarity.

Reasons to Avoid

As Christians, we are called to be set apart and reflect Christ in our speech (1 Peter 2:9). Using crude language or swearing can harm our witness and grieve the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

The Bible tells us that “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10). Our speech should build others up and reflect the new life we have in Christ (Ephesians 4:29). When we use foul language, we are not speaking as “ministers of the new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

Swearing and cursing can also be hurtful and destructive to relationships. Scripture commands us to “speak evil of no one” (Titus 3:2). Rather than tearing others down with our words, Christians should aim to promote peace, patience, kindness and love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

As believers, we want to honor God with our lips and have our speech seasoned with grace (Colossians 4:6). By avoiding swearing and coarse joking, we can better reflect Christ’s love to others.

Acceptable Speech

Bible Say About Swearing and Cursing

The Bible encourages us to speak truthfully and gracefully while avoiding idle words. As Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) states, “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.” Our speech should aim to edify others, not tear them down. We must be wary of gossip, slander, and other harmful forms of communication.

Proverbs 10:19 reminds us, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” This verse warns against idle chatter that serves no constructive purpose. Our words carry weight and impact; we should use them judiciously. 1 Peter 3:10 says, “For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.” Deceitful, frivolous, or cruel speech displeases God. As Christians, our communication should reflect the grace and truth of Christ.

Seeking God’s Help

As Psalm 141:3 says, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips”. This verse teaches us that we should ask God to help guard our speech. When we are tempted to speak in anger or use foul language, we can pray for God to keep watch over our lips and set a guard over our mouths.

David knew his tongue could lead him into trouble, so he asked the Lord to restrain his speech. We too can pray for God’s help in taming our tongues. Rather than reacting in the moment, we can pause, pray, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide our words. As James 1:26 says, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Our walk with God starts with our speech. May we seek His help in sanctifying our lips.


The Bible teaches that our words have power and we should use them wisely. Swearing, cursing, and obscenity should be avoided by followers of Christ. The Old Testament warns against taking God’s name in vain. Jesus said we will give an account for every careless word. The apostles Paul and James instructed believers to control their tongues and avoid corrupting speech.

While Scripture acknowledges the challenges of taming our tongues, God desires our speech to build others up, not tear them down. With the Spirit’s help, we can turn from destructive words to wholesome and uplifting language that gives grace to those who hear. Our goal is to honor God with our lips. When we stumble, He offers forgiveness and strength to speak words that are true, kind, and pleasing to Him.

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Daniel Powell

In my twenties, I began to approach the Bible with fresh eyes. I was no longer content to simply accept what I was told. I wanted to dive deeper, to question, and to understand. My faith demanded it.

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