Q. My roommate often swears in God's name—"God-this" and "God-that." When I tell him it's wrong, he challenges me to prove it. Is there a verse in the Bible I could show him that says we shouldn't curse like that—or at all?
—Tim Wink, via e-mail
A. Unfortunately, Tim, the use of profanity and crude language has become prevalent in today's culture. Words once considered off limits are now commonplace on the radio, tv, and especially in movies. They come glibly tripping off the tongues of the most influential people of our day. It's no wonder your roommate doesn't think anything of it.
The verse you're looking for is one of the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy God in vain" (Ex. 20:7, KJV). Contemporary translations say not to misuse God's name, speaking it "lightly" or "frivolously" or "profanely."
Misusing God's name can mean anything from swearing to blaspheming to making a mockery of it—attributing words and actions and attitudes to God that are not His. There are plenty of other verses that forbid the use of profanity in general, including Ephesians 5:3-4: "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place …" Instead, we're told: "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Col. 4:5-7).1