Can Christians drop the f-bomb? We’re not supposed to say that word, are we? What if I told you that you can? Should you?
(Before we go any further, I know that some of you reading this are not adults, and are bound by what your parents tell you. If your parents say not to use this word, it doesn’t matter what I think. Do what you’re told, children, and don’t say the words. But you can show them the blog and have a nice discussion.)
Before you throw me out, at least hear me out. Because I already know what you’re thinking:
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. –Ephesians 4:29 (KJV)
That’s in the Bible, and it’s good stuff. But does corrupt communication really mean what we’ve decided are naughty words? Consider with me the following.
This word “corrupt” used in this verse is translated from the Greek word sapros, and appears in the New Testament 8 times. In the KJV, seven times it is translated as corrupt, and once as bad. So let’s look at the broad context first. Following is every appearance of sapros. (I’ll be using the KJV for this entire post, but not because I think it is the best translation. It’s simply the translation that is most easily used with the available Greek resources.)
Again, don’t throw me out over what has been traditionally taught in church.
Let’s actually look at what the Bible says.
It is, after all, the Word of God.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:15–20)
In the above parable, Jesus is talking about fruit trees, and pointing out that the fruit that comes from a corrupt (sapros) tree is not good. Is it merely poor tasting fruit? Given the picture of false teachers, I’m inclined to believe that this fruit is not merely bitter, but harmful, and even poisonous.
My conjecture is bolstered by the next use of the word, just a few chapters ahead:
Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Matthew 12:33–37)
These corrupt words of which Christ speaks are coming from people to whom He refers to as “vipers.” Literally, Jesus is calling them a bunch of snakes. That’s not nice! But it’s true. These venomous teachers are bringing poison, and nothing more. Their words drip with death which has oozed from within their hearts. Evil men bring forth evil things.
Following the use of sapros in Matthew 12, we have an interesting comment from Jesus concerning idle words. But are idle words the same thing as swear words? This word, idle, means exactly what you’d expect: lazy to the point of neglectful.
You could argue that the use of swear words is indeed lazy.
I have argued the same, and continue to do so in some cases. If every other word coming out of your mouth is a swear word, you are not using your language to the fullest. There is a wealth of words in our lexicon, and your disregard of that richness makes you sound complacent and, yes, lazy.
However, the same thing can be said about a person who describes every large thing with the word “ginormous.” Some things are big, some are tall or lengthy. Others may be wide, or even girthy. But they’re not all ginormous. Not even close.
I’ve got the same feelings towards the word very. In high school, my English teacher all but forbade the use of of the word. Very loud is deafening. Very small could be minute, tiny, or miniscule. The use of very to bolster and adjective was laziness, and you won’t see me using it much in my writing.
But even this lazy use of language is not proper context. I hardly think that an overuse of the word “very” is the kind of idle speech that will get you condemned.
Moving on, the same parable concerning corrupt fruit appears in Luke 6:43–45, with the word sapros appearing twice. You are free to go and read it, but you’ll find that both uses of “corrupt” are much the same as they were in Matthew 7. I beseech you, therefore, that thee taketh my word for it. (Sorry about that. You now see the real reason why I don’t usually read the KJV.)
But enough about fruit. Let’s talk about fish:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47–50)
Here we have another parable of Jesus. This one finds itself on in a series on the Kingdom of Heaven. We’re focusing on the single time that sapros is translated as something other than corrupt. In this section, the word instead is translated as bad, and specifically bad fish caught in a net. Bad fish aren’t simply ugly, but more likely are not fit to eat. Maybe they are already dead, half-eaten, rotten, or something else. Considering Jesus was speaking to a Jewish audience, maybe they were shellfish, which were unclean animals.
Regardless, you’re not eating it!
It is interesting to note that each time Jesus referred to something as sapros, He was speaking about something to eat—whether fish or fruit. Any student of the Bible knows what else is called food in the Bible: the Bible itself! In several places, the Bible is symbolically referred to as food. Here’s what’s on the menu:
Unless you’ve got a problem with lactose, gluten, bacon, or bees, these things are good for food. But it’s got to be right. You’re not going to drink sour milk, or even dip your moldy bread into it. If the meat has gone sapros, or corrupt, you’re not eating it.
In every instance so far, sapros is used to describe bad, even poisonous food, and almost exclusively paints a picture of false teachers. If this is the case, how can we confidently say that Ephesians 4:29 refers to swear words? I don’t think that we can. I certainly can’t.
So should we drop it like it’s hot?
I have composed an entire blog post without the use of swear words, and I think that I conveyed my message plainly enough. However, this does not preclude the use of these words. Honestly, sometimes they convey just the right message. They are not necessarily the only word to get the job done, but sometimes the ugliest word is just what we need to convey the ugliest truth.
When all hope is lost, when consumed by anguish and doubt, when all the hosts of hell rail against us, “Oh darn” just doesn’t say enough.
If I fall or if I misstep
If I call You with my last breath
Will You be there for me after?
‘Cause I’m wasting in this silence
And my fear is fucking violent
I’m a child thrown to lions
Is there hope on the horizon
If I fall or if I misstep?
Jesus, where are you? —Kings Kaleidoscope, “A Prayer”
It’s ugly. It’s raw. But it’s honest, and it wasn’t casually or thoughtlessly dropped, either. In fact, it was offered first not to fans of music, but to God Himself.
The following quote is from an interview with Chad Gardner, the guy responsible for the above song:
The short answer is, that song comes from the deepest part of my gut and my being, and the fear that I face throughout my life. I’ve had really severe anxiety disorder my whole life, and that’s been a major part of my struggle and story. That song is about the fear of running from God or that God will turn his back on me and I will end up apart from him in hell. And the actual lyric is something that is from my journal. I don’t know how everyone else has conversations with God, but I have very vulnerable conversations, and God already knows how afraid I am. I usually figure it’s good for me to pour out my soul to him, and that’s what that song is.
Gardner doesn’t suggest a casual use of the f-bomb by any stretch, but he’d sure advocate adding it to your prayer life, and so would I if it’s honestly where you’re coming from. Like he said, you’re not going to hide from God, so there is no sense dressing up your prayers to look more together than you are.
Do not miss this!
Despite it’s diminutive length, the word in question is not a small one. It’s not simply something that should be carelessly thrown around. I hesitate to say that it is a powerful word, but it most certainly is. It invokes feelings in the hearer, especially one unaccustomed to hearing it, because it is a dirty and an ugly word.
Though used as such frequently, never would I suggest it an adequate term to describe the act of making love, because the word is far beneath the act of love-making. However, there are other low words used to describe it, and they too also improperly applied. I don’t think that you should use them either. (I’ll spare you a list. You know them well enough.)
I’m not about to start using this word in my writing, either. Although, if you’ve read much from me, you’ve seen me use other language that isn’t usually used from behind the pulpit, but I’ve used it there, too. These aren’t mere words. They truly are bombs, and ought to be dropped with great care and consideration. Authenticity is important, but pushing the envelope just for the sake of seeing how far we can get it isn’t the point.
We as Christians ought to use all that is available to us to proclaim truth to whoever will hear it, and if that means we use powerful language, so be it. But you’re probably not a sailor, so don’t talk like one either. No one here is suggesting that you fill your mouth with such words, but neither do you stand condemned for an expletive, no matter which letter is at the front.