Cussing, Fussing, and a Few Swear Words

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1 Corinthians 3:1-9

3And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.


Paul was a traveling man, and he made a lot of stops all over the Roman world. He planted churches – tilling up the rough soil in strange places and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ crucified, but he didn’t stay around for more than a few years in any one place. Once a church started to bud, he was off to some new mission field. Paul had to rely on others to tend the crops in his absence, and in the Corinthian church, this meant Apollos.

Flesh and Spirit – it is the tension in the early church. This is an “infant church” that can only be fed milk at first – it’s used to living to the flesh far more than submitting to the spirit. It’s not ready for the solid food of a grown up faith.

When there is jealousy and quarreling among you, it means you are the flesh – it means you are but babies in the faith. When you divide up into religious teams and say, “I belong to Paul,” or, “I belong to Apollos,” or, “I belong to Peter,” or, “I belong to Christ,” you demonstrate your reliance on the flesh. Factions don’t further faith.

Paul wrote this letter nearly 2,000 years ago, but it speaks to our country, our world, and the church. People long to belong…but we keep pointing to the wrong things – equating faith with membership rolls and rule keeping. We are God’s servants, working together; we are God’s field, God’s building.

Jesus speaks to this:


Matthew 5:21-37

21“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

27“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

31“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”


Cussing, Fussing, and a Few Swear Words…I admit, it’s an odd title for a sermon.

The law is good, and while it’s written in stone, it is not static… Jesus channels Moses when he climbs the mountain, and then he reinterprets the language from the 10 commandments – and he makes it a lot tougher.

There is a tension between the Old and New Testaments, and some Christians want to spend all their time in the New Testament (specifically, the red letter text of Jesus’ words in the gospel.) Christ doesn’t really give us that option if we pay attention to today’s text. He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Three times in this reading, we hear Jesus say, “You have heard it said, but I say to you…”

It’s not enough to say we’re good because we don’t murder, commit adultery, follow the letter of the law. We must follow its spirit.

  • Cussing
    • You have heard it said, do not commit murder. That’s a big one, and we might have sense of self-satisfaction knowing we haven’t slayed anyone this week – we can check off that box. You have heard said…but I say to you.
    • Cursing a brother or sister is a no no.
      • Raca (Ruh Roh)
      • Charlie Brown insult. How much more do we see now?
    • Anger is fun, but it’s not healthy. I had trouble containing my emotions when I was little, and I would shout, “I’m so mad.” My mother would always correct me, “Dogs get mad. People get angry.”
    • You are the light of the world, but anger will burn us up from the inside.
    • Didn’t Jesus get angry? Paul? Yes…
    • “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27, NRSV.)
      • “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” – Ambrose Bierce
    • Fussing
      • What I like about Joplin, is when I don’t know what I’m doing, somebody else seems to…home, work, school…it’s wonderful to have great neighbors and good fences.
      • You have heard it say, do not commit adultery, but I tell you, if you give into leering looks…if you want what isn’t yours, you have already committed adultery.
      • If you have to delete text messages…
      • Hold relationships (especially marriage) in the highest regard. Wandering eyes lead to wandering hands. Fidelity.
    • Swear Words
      • You have heard it said, “do not swear falsely…”
      • Long speeches – yes and no
      • Live your life in such a way that a simple way that your word is your bond.
      • “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember” – Mark Twain

I don’t know why we chase after divisions and self-inflicted wounds. It’s like the dog who finally catches the car – when he does, it’s not what he intended, and he has no idea what to do with it.

If we spend our time cussing, fussing, and swearing – we demonstrate that we have a heart for the flesh and not one for the Lord. We are (at best) babies in the faith still needing milk after all these years.

Matthew 5 – is as important a chapter in the canon for our faith as any other. It gives a new another alternative between godlessness of doing what we want and the legalism of believing faith is just a bunch of rule keeping – It’s all about living life different (salt and light.)

You have heard it said, now what will we do?




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