Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Curse and Effect

“When angry, count four; when very angry, swear.” ~ Mark Twain

“But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” ~Colossians 3:8

In the Monday, January 12, 1998 edition of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram, an article on the subject of Cursing appeared in the Life & Arts section. The article is a good example of unbiased reporting, as it just reports the societal trend of increased cursing and swearing, while not commenting on the appropriateness of the trend. I do not intend to be unbiased however, in commenting on the trend. The use of obscenity is condemned in scripture, and unworthy behavior for one who would please God.

One individual quoted in the article is a psychologist in Ft. Worth by the name of Richard Citrin. He said, “Clearly, the permissiveness of today’s culture allows this. It’s undeniable that things never said in public even a generation ago have become part of our language. I don’t say that common usage makes these terms appropriate, but they are in large part accepted.” He is right on in this. Common usage does not make cursing right! Common usage is characteristic of the world, not the child of God. The Bible clearly states that we are to ” … have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). Christians are to ” … walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

But, why has cursing increased? Why is culture more permissive of such obscenity? According to the article Richard Tallingen, a Media scholar in New York , said, ” … it became clear that younger people, as they began to have more money to spend, liked to spend it on things that would shock their parents and teachers and ministers. So TV, music, books, all those things that help shape our culture, got racier and racier. It hasn’t really stopped since.” Furthermore, Toni Taylor, a fourth grade teacher in Arlington, believes that even very young children are learning to curse at home. She said, “I’ve had parents come to school and start swearing during conferences.”

It seems that these things are cyclical in nature. No doubt the pagans of the first century were every bit as corrupt as a people as our society seems to be today. Paul spoke of them as “being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:29-32). American society today is very much characterized by the same ungodliness. In fact, if I were not aware of the date of Paul’s writing, I would think this scripture to be directly pointed to our day. Paul warned Timothy of this cycle of ungodliness, and instructed him as to how to deal with it. He said in 2 Timothy 3:13-14, “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of … “

An example of these “evil men” is found in the Telegram article. A Fort Worth “poet/essayist” by the name of William Bryan Massey III is said to frequently use profanity in his writing. In fact, the article states, “Few of Massey’s poems or essays could be even partially reprinted in a family newspaper, but he thinks this is a mark of distinction, not dishonor.” Notice his rationale for using such obscenity, “I choose the words that best express the idea or feeling I’m trying to get across to the reader. Some people say that poems or whatever could be just as good without [obscenities]. But when I’m using the language, I want to take advantage of every word.” Such absurd drivel would be laughable if it were not such a sad commentary on our times.

Educated people have always considered obscenity the haven of the coarse, uneducated and immoral man. It is the language of the drunken sailor, not the poet; of the tramp, not the businessman; of the law breaker, not the law maker. If that is now changing, we are saddened. However, we as Christians must refuse to be influenced by this ungodliness. We are called to a higher standard. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).