Just about every class and rank of people in our society today uses profanity. Former presidents have been recorded cursing and swearing in private. There has been one candidate in 2016 running for president who uses profanity like a second language, and excuses himself by saying he is not always politically correct. It is tremendously difficult for a Christian to feel comfortable in a situation where God’s name is used profanely. Foul language reveals the worst part of our character.
The Word of God teaches that God’s name is holy. “Holy and reverend is His name” (Psa. 111:9). I fear that even many today who are God’s people are guilty of profaning the name of the God of Heaven. They may be doing so without ever realizing it, as we shall observe later on in this article. To profane the name of God is a serious matter. The term “profane” is defined by Webster as follows: “to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt: desecrate, violate; 2: to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use.” Throughout the ages God has always demanded that his name be respected and honored. During the Mosaical period the Israelites were told: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain ” (Ex. 20.-7). “And you shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shall you profane the name of your God, I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:12).
A few examples taken from the New Testament concerning this matter are as follows: “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 you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned” (Matt. 12.36-37). “Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (Jam. 3:10). In Eph. 5:3, 4 Paul registered a stinging rebuke for those with a nasty tongue. Paul argues, “But fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becomes saints; nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, or jesting, which are not befitting; but rather giving of thanks.”
The concept of profanity certainly encompasses more than uttering several naughty words. Profanity is the practice of taking that which is holy, set apart for sacred use and making it common and ordinary. It involves irreverence and indolence, insolence and flippancy. It is the product of both ignorance and rebellion. We have come to associate profanity with filthy speech because it is perhaps the most graphic manifestation of disrespect that we encounter. However, such things as tampering with God’s word, using His funds unscripturally or corrupting His worship are no less instances of profanity (taking the holy and making it common).
Though the mores and morals of a society may change and thus its concepts of obscenity and profanity, the Law of God does not change. There is no place for filthy language, the suggestive or the obscene in the vocabulary of the Christian; but there is much less place in the behavior of a Christian for the vulgar tongue which uses the name of God in a vain manner. Frivolous and flippant exclamations of “Lord,” “God,” “Jesus Christ,” and the subtle euphemistic forms (“Gosh,” “Golly”, “Gee,” etc.) are inexcusable and should be eliminated from one’s speech.
Profane language begins as a subtle habit absorbed from thoughtless parents, social peer groups, TV shows, movies, music, and social media, but soon if progresses into a life-style difficult to reform. “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor 15:33). Let the professing Christian consider his speech and determine if it is in keeping with his claim to discipleship (2 Pet. 1:1-8). Profane speech is an indication of immaturity and total lack of self-control. It is neither “masculine” (or for that matter “feminine”) nor (as some seem to think) the only way to command attention, to motivate desired behavior or to fortify an argument. May we seek to sidestep profane behavior in every aspect of our lives. To do less is to deny the Master who bought us with His own blood. If it something we couldn’t or shouldn’t say among faithful brethren each Lord’s day, it is something we should think twice before saying throughout the week. In other words, think before you speak!