Jesus on Cussing and Cursing
Matthew 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Raca” is an Aramaic word meaning emptyheaded fool, bonehead, imbecile. It was a term of strong abuse, says the lexicon. It was a term offensive enough to get you hauled before the Sanhedrin if you used it. And yet, Jesus in his condemnation of using the term, doesn’t mind using the term. He doesn’t say “Don’t say the R-word.” He comes right out and says “Raca”. That must have got his audience’s attention.
But then, as he does repeatedly in the sermon on the mount, he intensifies the moral demands of the law. He demands even more righteousness than the scribes and Pharisees. If you say Raca, you’re in trouble with the Sanhedrin, but I tell you that if in anger you even call someone a fool, you are in danger of hell.
Now fool isn’t a bad word. This isn’t cussing, this is cursing. And cursing people in anger, with or without strong language, puts you on the brink of the fires of hell.
So you see, my point in insisting that our ethics of obscenity needs to be more culturally nuanced is not to give you an excuse to use more obscenity. Most of the times we use obscenity it is sinful because it is being used to strengthen our expression of anger or cursing.
My concern is to say to those Pharisees, who would never use one of the seven dirty words, that you are still guilty of cursing people and if you do not repent and declare war on this sin, you are in danger of the fires of hell.
Thanks to God’s grace given to me through a Piper semon at the Together for the Gospel conference, I have a new habit. When I become aware of something in my character that is egregiously unChristlike, I pray about it every morning and evening with my wife.
Luke 18:7-8 will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?, Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.
I commend this habit to you, I have never felt such strength of spirit since I began praying like this. And this issue of cursing is the new front lines for me about which I purpose to pray morning and evening.
If you too have been convicted, perhaps you would like to join me in memorizing these verses:
Psalm 50:19-21 “You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
James 3:9-10 With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.