A “$%arty” Debate: Appropriate Curse Words In A Christian Home

A digital illustration representing a Christian family sitting together in their living room, engaging in a thoughtful discussion. The family is diverse in age, showing parents, teenagers, and younger children, all with open Bibles on their laps. They are surrounded by words floating in the air around them, words like 'love', 'grace', 'speech', and 'growth', along with question marks, symbolizing their conversation about language and its impact on faith and Christian living. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, with soft lighting illuminating the room, highlighting the faces of the family members as they communicate openly and respectfully with each other. The room has a cozy feel, with comfortable furniture and a few homey decorations, such as a cross on the wall and a plant in the corner, creating a space that feels safe for open dialogue. The image is in a 16:9 format, filling the entire frame without color bars on the edges.

By Larry Billinger

Recently, a rather unique discussion emerged in my home, one that might seem trivial to some but turned out to be surprisingly reflective of deeper spiritual principles. The debate centered around a word: “$%art.” My children and wife firmly believed this to be a term we shouldn’t use in our household, and respecting their convictions, I agreed to refrain from using it. But the conversation didn’t stop there; it sparked further contemplation and discussion among my peers at a church retreat. The opinions I encountered were as varied as the individuals themselves.

It did remind me of a funny Nate Bargatze clip about the word “sucks” in his Amazon special.

Mixed Reactions Among Believers

One brother drew a parallel between the use of such words and mixing fresh water with salt water, suggesting that the result is still salt water, referencing James 3:11-12. This analogy aimed to highlight the incompatibility of Christian conduct with any form of unwholesome talk. While the intention behind his argument was clear, it raised the question: Is comparing a slang term for an embarrassing bodily function to mixing water types an apt application of Scripture?

11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3:11-12 NIV

I think when it comes to whether or not Christians should use offensive language, these verses would be a better avenue of conviction in this area.

  • Edifying Speech: Ephesians 4:29 underscores the importance of using words that build up rather than tear down, highlighting the incongruity of curse words with the Christian mandate to encourage and uplift others.

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. Ephesians 4:29

  • Purity of Speech: Colossians 3:8 directly advises ridding ourselves of “filthy language,” advocating for a purity in our communication that eschews vulgar or offensive speech.

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Colossians 3:8

  • Self-Control: The emphasis on self-control, a fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23, reminds us that controlled and thoughtful language reflects spiritual maturity and discipline.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

  • Setting a Positive Example: As Matthew 5:14-16 calls Christians to be a light to the world, our speech is part of the testimony we set before others, influencing our capacity to be a positive influence.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

  • Love for Others: The command in Mark 12:31 to love our neighbors implies carefully considering how our words impact those around us, steering clear of language that might offend or harm.

31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31

Others at the retreat felt the word was harmless, emphasizing that the heart’s intention matters most in such matters. This sentiment echoes Matthew 15:11, where Jesus teaches that what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.

A Reflection on Acceptable Christian Vernacular

As someone who didn’t always walk with Christ, I understand the transformation that takes place in every aspect of life, including our speech. Many of us, especially those from backgrounds marred by substance abuse or harsh environments, have found solace in “Christianizing” our language. Words like “S%art,” “shoot,” “darn,” and “crap” become less offensive alternatives to the profanities we left behind. However, witnessing friends at church turn to tobacco as a “lesser” vice reminded me of my own struggle to avoid falling back into old habits.

This parallel extends to our choice of words. Are these softened versions of harsher language truly harmless, or do they serve as a gateway to what we’ve worked so hard to leave behind? The mixed reactions from the men at the retreat versus the unanimous verdict from their wives—who questioned the appropriateness of such words for our children—highlighted a significant point of reflection.

The Heart of the Matter

Ultimately, everyone agreed that the issue is a matter of the heart. Before we became Christians, our language was unfiltered, but as we’ve grown in our faith, we strive to align every aspect of our lives with our beliefs, including our speech. Ephesians 4:29 and Colossians 3:8 urge us to use words that build up and encourage, avoiding any form of unwholesome talk.

In exploring this topic further, I was reminded of key biblical passages that address the responsibility we carry in not causing others to stumble through our actions or words:

  • Matthew 18:6-7 (NIV): “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” This passage starkly illustrates the seriousness with which we should consider the impact of our words on others, especially on those newer or more vulnerable in their faith.
  • Romans 14:13 (NIV): “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” Paul’s advice here is a powerful reminder of the need for mindfulness and love in our interactions, ensuring that our liberty does not become a cause for others to falter.
  • 1 Corinthians 8:9 (NIV): “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” Echoing Romans, this verse underscores the importance of considering how our actions, including the words we choose, might affect the spiritual well-being of those around us.

These scriptures enrich our discussion, emphasizing that our speech and actions should reflect our commitment to nurturing and protecting the faith of those around us.

Guiding Principles for Our Family

In our household, we’ve decided to engage in open discussions about what language is acceptable. We emphasize that while certain words may seem innocuous or widely accepted, the impact on our spiritual growth and witness to others is paramount. This dialogue is not about setting a list of banned words but fostering an environment where our language reflects the love, respect, and integrity we aim to embody as followers of Christ.


The debate over “$%art” underscores our need for discernment in speech, reflecting our Christian journey of growth. It’s vital to balance our speech guidelines with the grace of Jesus Christ, which frees us from the law yet calls us to love and responsibility. As Galatians 5:13 reminds us, we’re to use our freedom to serve one another in love, making choices that glorify God and edify others. This approach helps us navigate our words in a way that honors our faith and the grace that sustains us.

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