Who decides what the bad words are?

Paul Tripp references an occasion where one of his kids asked this question and he made a couple of distinct categories:

  • There are condemning, judgmental, ungodly words that should never be used. For example, asking God to “damn” someone just shouldn’t be done. It’s wrong.
  • There are other words that are sexually graphic and these words bring to mind certain sexually explicit things in a derogatory way that is often inappropriate.
  • There are still more words that in any given culture are just impolite to say. For example, “shit” is just an impolite word. There is nothing wrong or inappropriate about it other than it is impolite to say.

Then Tripp went on to discuss the biblical standard over and against culture. The Bible doesn’t define wholesome language in a vocabulary way (meaning specific words), rather it is about wholesome language in an “intention” sort of way. What one “intends” with his/her words determines whether or not the communication is wholesome.

“The Bible says, wholesome language is intended to give grace to the hearer and build someone up.”

Tripp goes on to say that he “is willing to sacrifice his right to a vocabulary in order to be part of redemptive good in someone’s life.” It is not just abut words in a vocabulary.

Fascinating. A deep understanding of Christianity and grace leads not to a set of prudish rules about words, rather it leads to a deep application of love and appreciation for another. Think about it, anytime a person willingly sacrifices and lays down a right, communicates a deep sense of respect and honor to another human being. It would seem to this cultural observer that a Christian perspective on the wholesome nature of communication needs to be applied to our highlighted focus on the nature and outbreak of bullying in our culture.

source YouTube


  1. I’ve often run into this conundrum with language and Christians. That its not the word in all cases but rather the intent with which it’s said. If I say ‘darnit’ with intent of frustration or anger its a similar situation to the ‘cussing’ alternative. The intent is the same but one word is acceptable. Difficult to convince Christians of intent instead of vocabulary. Good read. Thanks Jeremy

    • We Christians like to pride ourselves on not being “cussers” as if substituting darn for damn or heck for hell makes all that much difference. I think most people can see through the facade, but the Christians themselves. Jesus says in Luke 6:45: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” It would seem, then, that out of the heart comes intent. So regardless of word choice, a Christian can have “unwholesome” language coming out of his/her mouth. Someone with unwholesome language has a heart problem, not a word choice problem.

  2. Thank you, Jeremy, Sir! That is the most sensible, logical, down to earth explanation that I have ever
    read ii– from anywhere!!!! THANK YOU FOR SHARING IT!

    Ben Drown

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