In Case You Were Wondering

In Case You Were Wondering: Why Is it Bad for Christians to Cuss?

I’m working on a project I’ve got to get done this week (prayer appreciated!), so I’ll be re-running a few favorite articles from the archives in lieu of new content.

The In Case You Were Wondering series was the “beta version” of The Mailbag (our regular Monday feature). This article first appeared at Satisfaction Through Christ on September 30, 2015.

Christians and Cussing

Why is it bad for Christians to cuss?
Why are certain words considered “bad words”?

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it 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. James 3:7-10

Ouch. Our mouths can really get us into trouble, can’t they? We can lie, boast, and say all kinds of hurtful things to others. And one way that God definitely did not intend for Christians to use our mouths is to use profanity or vulgar speech.

But why? What makes one string of four letters good and noble, such as “love,” “pray,” or “holy,” while another string of four letters is cause for washing out mouths with soap and more restrictive movie ratings?

It’s because of the meaning attached to the word. Human beings don’t deal with words as random assemblages of letters. Human beings deal with words in terms of meaning. And God doesn’t want the meanings that come out of our mouths to point people away from Him, but, rather, to represent Him well. We can see this in the instructions He gives us about the things we say:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:4

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

If you’re a Christian who uses foul or vulgar language, have you ever stopped to think about why you do that? What is the motivation of your heart for saying those words? Is it Christlike? Do you think Jesus would use that kind of language? When you say those words do they point people to or away from Christ? What impression does it give people of Christians, the church, and Christ when they hear you cussing? Think about the definitions of those words. When you say those words, what definition pops up in the mind of the person who hears you? Is it something good, pure, honorable, etc.?

But when you come right down to it, swearing is really not a disease to be treated, but a symptom of another disease- a heart infiltrated by worldliness. Luke 6:45 tells us:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

It’s important to remedy the outward behavior of filthy language, but that only comes from having a heart that is filled with the good treasure of Christ.


Additional Resources:

Is It a Sin to Cuss/Swear/Curse? at Got Questions

Is cursing or swearing a sin? at CARM

In Case You Were Wondering, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ In Case You Were Wondering: Wise Men, Astrology, and Horoscopes

Originally published June 25, 2015wise-men

I’ve heard that Christians shouldn’t read horoscopes or get involved with astrology, but weren’t the wise men who came to see Jesus astrologers? Maybe there’s something to astrology.

Well, if we were to say that, then we could also say maybe there’s something to stealing, too. Because, after all, that’s what got the thief on the cross to Jesus, and Jesus said that he would be with Him in Paradise that day. And maybe there’s something to persecuting and murdering Christians, too, because that’s how Paul came to encounter Jesus. But we don’t say those things because that’s not the way we rightly handle and apply Scripture.

There are two broad categories of Scripture: descriptive passages and prescriptive passages. Descriptive passages are descriptions of something that happened, like the story of the wise men visiting Jesus, or Noah and the ark, or David and Goliath. Prescriptive passages could also be called commands or direct instructions, “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.”

When we have a question about whether or not it’s OK with God for us to do something, say, consulting horoscopes and astrologers, we look first at the relevant prescriptive passages, such as Deuteronomy 18:9-14:

When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.

While this passage was obviously written as a command to Old Testament Israel, we can still draw out some applicable principles for today by asking ourselves why “the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.” God calls these practices an “abomination” several times and links them to paganism. Verse 14 is reminiscent of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 and 1 John 2:15-17, which tell us not to love or partner with the dark things of the world and to separate ourselves from such things.

This is a clear, prescriptive passage that answers our questions about following horoscopes and astrology, so this is where we get our instruction, not from a descriptive passage about someone who was an astrologer.

Additionally, there’s good reason to believe that the wise men who went to see Jesus were not astrologers in the same horoscope/tarot card/palm reading/fortune teller sense in which we use the word astrology today. The Greek word translated as “wise men” is magos (magi). Its primary meaning is “Oriental scientist,” a term which was also applied to teachers, priests, and physicians, among others. It would seem that the wise men were much more akin to astronomers than astrologers, and were learned in the Old Testament messianic prophecies as well.

If you’d like to read more about this topic, here are some good resources:

Should a Christian Consult Horoscopes?

Astrology and the Visit of the Wise Men

Were the Wise Men Astrologists?


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.
In Case You Were Wondering

In Case You Were Wondering: Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 God’s Promise to American Christians Today?

ICYWW 2 Chron 7 14

“In Case You Were Wondering” is an ongoing series examining challenging questions about the Bible and Christianity and providing biblical answers. You can read previous ICYWW articles by clicking on the topic in the category cloud to your left.

Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 God’s promise to American Christians today?

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14

This verse is often quoted as a call to prayer and revival for American Christians, suggesting that if we pray, repent, and humble ourselves, God will turn America around and make it “one nation under God” again. Since it’s 4th of July week, you’ve probably been seeing this verse in your news feeds, but is it really a promise to us today about America?

2ch714
Photo courtesy of Please Convince Me.

Not this particular verse, no. Here’s why:

1. This verse is only part of a sentence (you can tell by the way it starts with a lowercase letter). In order to rightly handle God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15), it’s imperative that we consider a verse’s immediate context as well as the way it fits in with the big picture of the entire Bible. Even adding just verses 13 and 15 shows us that this verse was written about Old Testament Israel, not America. Reading all of chapter 7 sheds even more light on this verse, and if we throw in chapter 6, especially 6:26-31, we can clearly see that 7:14 is part of God’s specific answer to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple.

2. There are no supporting Scriptures in the New Testament (remember, Believers are in the church era under the new covenant of grace) that imply that if Christians humble themselves and repent that God will give them a nation governed by biblical laws and leaders and that we will have a society that behaves itself, morally. In fact, in the New Testament, in the early church, we see the exact opposite. The more the church prayed, humbled itself, and spread the gospel, the more Rome persecuted Christians. And yet, we never hear of them claiming 2 Chronicles 7:14 as God’s promise to them that He would turn things around if they would only humble themselves and seek His face more. The New Testament, even Jesus Himself, says that we will be persecuted for godly living (John 15:20, Matthew 10:22, 2 Timothy 3:12-13).

3. We can’t claim the promise without claiming the punishment. Look again at verse 13. It specifies that the agricultural hardships of drought, locust infestation, and pestilence are the ones that God promises to heal. It is a promise of literal healing of the land so that crops will grow unharmed, game will be plentiful, and people will be able to eat, not a promise of a metaphorical “healing” of a nation’s immorality.

If we claim that this “healing of the land” applies to us today, then we also have to claim that God will punish our disobedience with those very things He promises to heal (drought, locusts, and pestilence), because that’s what these verses are talking about.

4. The reason this passage sounds like it applies to us is because there are some principles in this verse that do apply to us. How do we know? Because they are supported by other clear and direct Scriptures:

Are we God’s people who are called by His name”? Yes (Acts 11:26)

Should we humble ourselves? Yes (1 Peter 5:6)

Should we pray and seek God’s face? Yes (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Should we turn from any wicked ways we practice? Yes (Acts 3:19)

Will God hear from Heaven if we do these things? Yes (1 John 5:14-15)

Does God promise to heal our land of bad morals or the agricultural problems He has punished our disobedience with if we do these things? No.

Asking God to fulfill His promises and thanking Him for those already fulfilled is a wonderful and worshipful way to pray. But, if we truly want to pray “in the name of Jesus” and pray rightly for God’s will to be done, we must use wisdom, discernment, and the tools God has given us to discover exactly what He has promised us.

For further reading:

Properly Praying the Promises by Michelle Lesley

A Text Out of Context: 2 Chronicles 7:14 at Please Convince Me

The Most Shared Verses in Their Context (2 Chronicles 7:14) at Borrowed Light

In Case You Were Wondering

In Case You Were Wondering: Should Christians Participate in Halloween? 7 Scriptures to Consider

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Should Christians participate in Halloween? 

Since there is no specific Bible verse that says, “Thou shalt/shalt not participate in Halloween and its related activities,” this is an area of Christian liberty that must be decided by each individual or couple on the basis of scriptural principles and prayer. If there are Halloween activities available to you that do not violate scriptural principles or your conscience or cause you to become a stumbling block to someone weaker in the faith (which may even be your spouse or child), you are free to participate in those aspects of Halloween.

(Please understand that when I say “Halloween-related activities,” I am including things like handing out candy and tracts to your neighborhood trick-or-treaters, participating in your church’s trunk or treat {assuming no sin is being committed and the gospel is being shared}, etc.)

Here are some Scriptures and principles that may be of help as you make your decision:

1 Corinthians 10:23:
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

Is it helpful? Does it build you/your family up?

1 Corinthians 10:24-30:
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

Who is watching what your family does? Are you serving your neighbor and drawing him closer to Christ by the activities you participate in?  

1 Corinthians 10:31:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Are you glorifying God by participating in the activity you’re considering?

Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Does the activity exemplify and cause you to think about things that are pure, lovely, etc.?

Ephesians 5:11-12-
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

Is the activity spiritually unfruitful, a work of darkness, shameful? Are you taking part in evil or exposing it?

Isaiah 5:20:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Does the activity celebrate, honor, or make light of sin, evil, and darkness?

1 Corinthians 15:54b-55:
Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

Christ died to put death to death. Does the activity you’re considering glorify death?

For Further Reading:

Christians: When Halloween Comes Knocking at A Word Fitly Spoken

Halloween Statement for Christians by Marcia Montenegro

Cancel Halloween Unless You Can Do These 5 Things by Aaron Armstrong

Halloween History and the Bible from Answers in Genesis

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween from Got Questions

In Case You Were Wondering

In Case You Were Wondering: Should Christians Participate in Boycotts?

Boycott

Ladies- if you haven’t joined Satisfaction Through Christ’s Community Group on Facebook, I’d like to encourage you to do so. It’s a great group for Christian women. One of our weekly features is Tough Questions Tuesday. Each week, I answer a tough biblical or spiritual question sent in by one of our readers. From time to time, I’ll be reprinting those questions and answers here under the title, In Case You Were Wondering.

Should Christians boycott businesses or charities that financially support abortion, homosexual marriage, or other unbiblical things?

This question has gotten a lot of attention lately because of the ice bucket challenge and the ALS charity that funds embryonic stem cell research. I think whether or not to boycott a business or charity is something every Christian needs to decide for herself based on Scripture and her own conscience. Some good Scriptures to study to help with your decision are 1 Corinthians 8 and 10:23ff, and Romans 14:5-12.

Since there’s no one right answer to this question, I’d like to just share with you how I have come to handle it in my life, in case it might be helpful.

I used to do boycotts (I was on an e-mail list that was basically a constant call to boycott this or that business), but it got to the point where there were so many companies and subsidiaries of those companies that donate here and there to unacceptable causes that it was impossible to track all of them down and keep up with them all. Since I would have felt like a hypocrite for boycotting one company but not another, I amended my “policy” on boycotting:

1. I don’t boycott places where I get necessities for my family–phone company, grocery stores, gas stations, etc. If there were a very big public splash about one of these places supporting something unacceptable and I had another option, I might reconsider a boycott.

2. If there’s an alternative to a “boycottable” business, I take it. For example, I would not donate to Komen because they support Planned Parenthood, but I might donate to another cancer/breast cancer charity that doesn’t.

3. If it’s not a necessity and there’s no alternative, I probably wouldn’t donate/buy/shop there. For example, within the last 5 years, Starbucks has, among other very publicized pro-homosexuality actions, filed a brief against DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) and worked to support legislation in Washington state to legalize same sex “marriage.” Starbucks isn’t a necessity, and if there weren’t an alternative coffee place in my area, I would just do without. (Full disclosure- Starbucks is expensive and several miles from my house. My coffee maker is cheap and only several yards from my bed. So, I don’t go to Starbucks, but it’s because I’m broke and lazy, not because I’m boycotting.)

My way isn’t the perfect way, and there’s probably still some hypocrisy in it that I can’t see or reconcile, but it works for me.

For further reading:
Should Christians boycott companies that support anti-Christian policies? from Got Questions
Should Christians Boycott Boycotting? from The Gospel Coalition

Do you boycott any businesses for certain reasons?
How did you arrive at your decision to boycott?