Thou Shalt Not Cuss

September 12, 2010

It really annoys me when I hear cussing in public. It’s like they are not only rude they are stupid as well, they don’t seem to understand that their conversation can be heard not only by the people they are talking to but by everyone within earshot.
Kind of like when restaurants used to allow smoking, it didn’t matter where you were in the restaurant you had to breathe other people’s poison.

And it’s not like you are eavesdropping, you are just sitting having a coffee, trying to enjoy a meal in a restaurant or standing in line for groceries and you hear language that used to be considered not appropriate for polite company.
And it’s not that I am a prude and haven’t heard those words. As a young teen I spent a lot of time around barns and when I was 15 I went to work with my dad on the tugboats out of Saint John New Brunswick and hanging around with sailors it didn’t take long before I had pretty much heard any words that I might have missed in high school.
And so if you take the time I spent on Tugboats, and oil tankers and Fishing Boats and the little bit of time I spent with the Military Police in the Reserves I think I’ve heard it all.
And through the years I’ve kind of developed some personal thoughts about people who use that type of language and I have discovered a few things about people who use vulgarities and blasphemies.
Jesus said in Matthew 15:17-18 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you.
It is a reflection of Who We Are for the most part we would like to separate those words from how people who matter see us and view us. That’s why people apologize for their language when they find out what I do for a living. It’s why people in most cases don’t use language like that in front of their mothers. Because they know that it will cause people to think differently about them.
And when the language slips out they try and excuse it or justify it, “That’s not really what I’m like, I don’t know where that came from.” We are like the Greek poet Euripides Who wrote “‘Twas but my tongue, ’twas not my soul that swore.” But you can’t draw that line of distinction and yes my friend, regardless of how you want to colour it, it was your soul that swore. You might not want to admit it but what is in the well of your heart will eventually show up in the bucket of your mouth.
Your language says a lot about you, the use of obscenities don’t require a lot of imagination or a lot of intelligent. When you stop and think about it, for the most part obscenities deal with bodily functions or body parts and don’t really require a lot of imagination and while I’m not necessarily comfortable hearing them I’m not personally offended, after all they aren’t usually swearing at me.
My dad put it in perspective for me a long time ago when he told me that “obscenities are the refuge of illiterates and children.” Which kind of echoes the words of William Ward who said “Profanity is the use of strong words by weak people”
And you know what? When I hear someone cuss I automatically make value judgements about them, I know it’s not right but I immediately put them into a stupid category, not necessarily uneducated there are a lot of educated and seemingly intelligent people who talk as if they had been to hell for a post-graduate course with the devil as their speech instructor, but they sound stupid. George Washington said “The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.”
So why do people do it? I don’t know. But I here are some ideas: “Ten Reasons People Swear.”
10) It makes my mother proud
9) It proves I’m a grownup
8) It demonstrates that I have self control
7) It is an indication of how clearly my mind functions.
6) It makes my conversation pleasing to everybody.
5) It leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind as to my good breeding.
4) It impresses people with my education
3) It is an unmistakable sign of culture and refinement.
2) It makes me the type of person people want around their children
1) It is my way of honouring God
Regardless of the reason you might cuss, as a Christ follower here is a reason to not cuss. The word of God tells us in Ephesians 4:29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
But our language is not just a reflection of who we are.
Exodus 20:7 “You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name. It’s a Reflection of How We View God
When I hear people use obscenities it bugs me and I’m annoyed, it’s like they are polluting my hearing space. But it’s different when I hear God’s name being misused. That makes me cringe inside, because then it becomes personal, they are talking about my God, my Saviour. The sad thing is that society as a whole and even Christians seem to feel just the opposite. They feel like blasphemy isn’t as bad as some other words. I don’t know how many times someone’s told me about a movie and I’ve asked the question, “How’s the language?” And I’m told that “Oh there isn’t any foul language in it” and then when I see the movie I discover that there are very few obscenities but the Lord’s name is misused time and time again. I’ve mentioned to believers about this movie or that movie that I’ve pushed the stop button or walked out on because of the language and they’ll say, “Well it didn’t have this word or that word in it.” And they are right, but the Lord’s name was misused frequently and the sad part is that even believers have become immune to hearing it.
And we shouldn’t be immune to it. It should bother us when we hear our God’s name misused. And there are several different ways that it can be misused. The first of course is the one most of us think about when we hear this commandment and that is when God’s name is used as a profanity. Video clip, From Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
You ever want to do that to someone? That kind of hits home with me. When I was ten or eleven, you know the age trying to be more grown up then you are, I tried out one of the new words that I had heard in the schoolyard on my parents. I very casually slipped it into a joke I was telling them, trying to appear a little more mature. I was spanked as a child, probably not nearly as often as you might think, but I was spanked and I don’t recall any specific spankings that I received. I do however remember the consequences of my actions that day. And it was very similar to what happened to Indy.
So the question is why? Why is this command here? we know the what; Don’t misuse God’s name, but why? Shouldn’t God be bigger then being offended by name calling after all what were we taught as kids, Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. You have to understand how much more there is to this then simply the name of God, which by the way we don’t have. When the Old Testament was written the Gods of the surrounding countries all had names but the Jews wouldn’t even speak the name of their God.
When we think of God in the Old Testament we think of the name Jehovah, but the Jews spelt it YHWH, try pronouncing that. And even then they wouldn’t use it verbally instead they would refer to him when they spoke as “Ha Shem” which literally means “The Name”.
Often in the Bible, the names used for God are revelatory of His character. God is revealed to us in Scripture by His names. They show us His nature.
He is El Shaddai, the Strong One. He is El-Elyon, God Most High. He is El-Olam, the Everlasting God. He is Jehovah Jirah, the God Who Provides. He is Jehovah Rophe, the God Who Heals. He is Jehovah M’Kaddesh, the God Who Sanctifies. He is Jehovah Shalom, the God of Peace. He is Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts. He is Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord Our Righteousness. He is Jehovah Shammah, the God Who is There. He is Jehovah Nissi, the Lord Our Banner. And He is Jehovah Roi, the Lord Our Shepherd.
But today we simply call Him God and so that is what is relevant for us today.
If you remember the Ten Commandments you might recall that the second commandment was concerned with making idols and the reason that was forbidden was because Idols reduce God. You take the Master and Creator of the Universe and reduce Him down to an inanimate object made of stone or wood. And while making Idols certainly reduces God, misusing his name also reduces Him. You see, any time that we diminish and trivialize the name of God by making it lower and less respected we reduce the glory of God. And that’s true even if it isn’t a conscious act.
You ever play King of the castle when you were a kid? You remember it might have been on a hill or a big snow pile and you’d wrestle with the other kids to stay on the top and be King of the Castle, while the other kids would be the dirty rascals. Now it would have meant nothing if there had of been nobody at the top of the hill to push off, if you could have just waltzed up the hill without any effort. The game is in pushing the others out of the way and taking the high ground yourself.
People are doing exactly the same thing when they misuse God’s name. God is recognized as holding the high ground. So if people want to show how important they are then they “shove” God or Jesus off the high ground so they can occupy it themselves.
They are saying, at least subconsciously, “I’m better then God”. What do I mean? Simple, when someone makes a statement like “God-damn you” they are saying “I have enough power over God that I can command him to do something and he will do it. He is my personal Genie.” You never hear someone say, “Bob-damn you” or “Sue-damn you” why not? It doesn’t have the same effect when the name is someone on the same level or lower then you.
The effect that the person is aiming for is to impress people with how important they are; they can even order God around and order Him to do their bidding.
In the same way when someone tries to make a dramatic statement they invoke the name of our Lord, it’s not uncommon to hear the name of Jesus Christ on lips of non-believers. Yet you never hear “Tom Brown” or “Mary Jones” used in the same way. Why? Because it would be less impressive, less dramatic and less powerful. And besides they are trying to make an impression, “look at how powerful I am, I can use the name of God whenever I want and He won’t do anything about it.” Again it may be consciously or subconsciously.
Or maybe the reason isn’t malicious it’s simply ignorance. This individual trivializes the name of God without even thinking. In fact most people who use the Lord’s name in vain through profanity do not even think about what they are doing. They are not intentionally cursing God. Their words are not directed either to God, or about God. Many of these people are not even aware of their profanity. Their profanity is simply a habit pattern for their speech. They’ve grown up with it. Perhaps their parents cursed, or their friends cursed. The use of profanity has become part of their speech. They are ignorant as to what they are doing, they are probably unaware that this issue really offends God; I mean God takes it fairly serious. The entire commandment reads Exodus 20:7 “You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.
Did you catch that? “The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.” Maybe not today, but God will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name. And God is no man’s debtor.
It’s a Reflection of a Believer’s Ignorance
If the only time I heard God’s name being taken in vain it was by someone who didn’t profess to follow Christ it wouldn’t be so bad.
When I hear a non-Christian misusing God’s name it bugs me, when I hear a Christian misuse God’s name it really bugs me. “Surely you can’t be serious Denn? How would a Christian misuse God’s name? They don’t cuss.” No they don’t use it as a curse word or a swear word but they bandy it around as if it were just another collection letters. They trivialize God’s name.
Last Sunday Angela and I were grabbing a coffee at Tim’s before we went to the service at the Berkley and a group of church ladies came in from another evangelical church and within the first minute that they were there I am sure I heard “Oh my God” used six times. By the way just typing OMG doesn’t make it any better.
And that is not uncommon among some believers, you’ll hear them say “God this, or God that” or “Oh my God”. Listen up, if you use God’s name and you aren’t speaking about God or speaking to God then you are misusing God’s name. It is not just a word, it’s not a word that we use to emphasize a point it is a holy word, which names a Holy God. It was the poet William Cowper who wrote “It chills my blood to hear the blest Supreme rudely appealed to on each trifling theme.”
It’s also a misuse when you carelessly say things like “God said” you better make sure that he did. When a person is anointed for healing and the person who is praying for the sick person makes a cavalier remark like “God has healed you” they better make sure that He has. When we tell people “God wants me to do this, or this is God’s will” you’d better make sure that you’re not just using God’s name to justify what you want to do. Don’t confuse God’s will with your will that you’ve stamped God’s name on. When I was in Bible College it wasn’t unusual to hear God’s will invoked as a reason for someone to break up with their boy friend or girl friend.
It’s not just a command about the way we speak, it’s also a commandment concerning the way we live. When you call yourself a Christian then you are calling yourself a follower of Christ, you are in effect taking his name. And when your life does not reflect your commitment as a Christian then you are misusing his name. When you call yourself a Christian then live like the devil what does that say? What are you doing to the name of Christ with the way you are living?
This morning each one of us who takes on the name of Christ needs to examine our lives, we need to search our innermost heart, our deepest motives and our attitude toward other people. Then we need to ask ourselves this question; can God sign his name to our lives? We need to look at our daily schedule, our routine, and our priorities and ask; can God sign his name to that list? Then we need to look at our physical life, at our bodies, the temple of the Holy Spirit. The instrument of your personality for sin or for righteousness.
What do your activities, recreation, sex life, service, work, diet, fitness maybe even the way you drive your car say about the one whose name you carry? Can God sign his name to every activity of your physical temple?
The list is almost endless isn’t it? Does God co-sign His Holy Name in your cheque book? What about your home, your habits, your moods, your manner how about your disposition?
How about your marriage, do you remember the opening line of your wedding ceremony? No? It probably went something like this, Dearly beloved; we are gathered together in the sight of God, and in the presence of these witnesses. It was in the sight of God that you promised to love, comfort, honour and keep your spouse. It was to God that you promised to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do we part. According to God’s holy law.
What about when you stood in front of God and dedicated your children to him, promising to guide their feet to the sanctuary and to teach them early the fear of God, or when you stood as a new church member committing yourself to the vision and dreams of this church. How about the hundred of promises that you’ve made to God through your life? “God if you’ll do this I promise I’ll do that, or I promise that I’ll stop doing something else.”
Can God sign his name to your life? Does your life honour his Holy name? If so then you are keeping the third commandment. If not then you need to say, “I’m sorry”. And maybe we need to make Colossians 3:17 our guide, you remember what it says?
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.