First of all, a word of warning, this post contains language... of the English, Greek, and explicit variety so proceed under advisement.
So lately I have been thinking about how exactly I feel concerning "cuss words" (I will use cuss words as my connotation, not "swear words" since they are actually different and the Bible speaks to each differently), specifically the use of and listening to them with respects to how it all fits in with the teaching contained in scripture.
First we look at Colossians 3:8 "But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips." So now let us ask ourselves, what exactly is "filthy language?" (For reference the KJV translates it as “filthy communication” and the ASV says “shameful speaking.”
When looking at the Greek (and forgive me, I am just now beginning to learn how to use my Strong's numbers and am HORRIBLE at learning languages, the fact that I am trying to self teach myself Greek, all is to say I will lean heavily on others interpretations and readings of Greek words, yay Google and Wikipedia!) the 2 words that make up "filthy language" are aischros and logia. The first aischros, seems to be translated very correctly, it is dishonorable, filthy, etc. It is the 2nd word, logia, that is the actual subject (aischros is the descriptor) of the passage. I will quote the first sentence in Wikipedia as to what logia is: "Logia is a term applied to collections of sayings credited to Jesus and used as source materials by the Gospel writers in the writing of the familiar canonic narrative gospels." To me, this passage in Colossians isn't saying don't use "cuss words", it is instead speaking out against false prophecy and the twisting of Jesus's message or "dishonorable/filthy message of Jesus". In my research I ran across an article that best summed up how I view this passage: "Thus, rather than reprobates like George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, and Buddy Hackett, the condemnation pertaining to the aischrologia rather applies to the practices of such men as Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson, Robert Tilton, Kenneth Hagin, and Kenneth Copeland."
Next in my reading I was pointed to the passage Philippians 3:8 "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." The phrase I am looking at here is "I consider them rubbish," the KJV translates it as "dung." The Greek word in question is skubalon "This word is used primarily for excrement, especially human excrement; secondarily for rubbish, dirt, leavings, etc." It seems to me that Paul was trying to be quite emotive in this passage, that he was not only showing how worthless his previous Judiastic Religion was, but also complete revulsion (hence the primary translation of human excrement, and the secondary translation of "rubbish", human fecal matter isn't just worthless, it's to most people quite repulsive as well).
To quote the word study I linked above (which maybe 2 of you actually followed up on):
That skuvbalon took on the nuance of a vulgar expression with emotive connotations (thus, roughly equivalent to the English “crap, s**t”) is probable in light of the following considerations: (1) its paucity of usage in Greek literature (“Only with hesitation does literature seem to have adopted it from popular speech”) (2) it is used frequently in emotionally charged contexts (as are its verbal cognates) in which the author wishes to invoke revulsion in his audience; (3) there is evidence that there were other, more common and more acceptable terms referring to the same thing (in particular, the agricultural term koprov" and the medical term perivsswma) (4) diachronically, the shock value of the term seems to have worn off through the centuries; and (5) a natural transfer of the literal to a metaphorical usage, in which disgust, revulsion, or worthlessness are still in view, argues for this meaning as well.
I think that to capture the true emotion and expression Paul was displaying here we would translate it as: "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them crap(or if you wanted to go with the adult version, even the word shit wouldn't be inappropriate in expressing Paul's emotive stance here), that I may gain Christ."
Whats my point here? Glad you asked! My point is that whenever we interpret scripture that calls for refraining from unclean speech we need to do it in light of Paul using very emotive and "crass" (dare I say... "cuss") terminology of his day when speaking with the people of Philippi. We must conclude that the use of a cuss word in and of itself is neutral (Rom 14:14), that there is nothing inherently sinful about any particular word. Rather, its filthiness or appropriateness is derived from its referent and significance. Paul demonstrates this in his use of “crap, shit” in Philippians 3:8, where the word skubalon, has a metaphorical referent of his former religious practices, with the significance that these practices are worthless.
I am not saying that we should all wander around professing to be Christians and then dropping F-bombs and sounding like sailors recently in to port (that hardly sounds like a group of individuals who have been "set apart.") What I am saying is we need to stop judging individuals who speak differently than we do and instead focus on a message of love. Lately in my circle of friends quite a number of individuals have lately spoken out against swear words. When some friends of both Shalisa and I were over a while ago (of whom I have the utmost respect for their walk with Christ) the two adult males in the room (myself and the unnamed other individual) both used some "cuss words" in the heat of competition (we were playing some games). Later my wife was aghast that I would say something so terrible (well, she wasn't THAT surprised, but she did chastise me) but I believe that the words I used properly expressed my emotive feelings at the time. It's the difference between saying "My dice rolls suck" and "You suck", the reference to what I am talking about is what makes all the difference. If you refrain from using the "big 7" but call someone an idiot or stupid or dumb in my mind that is much worse than saying "my electric bill is too damn expensive!" Again, it all comes down to WHAT (as in context) you are saying not HOW (as in emotive) you are saying it.
During college I had mandatory chapel every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and often we either had a guest speaker or professor come and speak to us. One of the guest speakers was a missionary in Africa. He got up in front of everyone and started off his speech by stating that "seven fucking thousand kids are dying every day from hunger in Africa alone, and more of you are upset about the fact that I just used the f word in church than the fact that a child is dying every 3 seconds across the globe." Needless to say, he never spoke at my school again which I think is a tragedy because he illustrated a very important point. We as Christians get so hung up on judging what is and isn't right that we forget our true calling to love the world and spread the gospel of Jesus. The fact that a child is dying every 3 seconds in 3rd world countries across the globe SHOULD evoke VERY STRONG emotions in us, that should make us upset to our very core, and in our in our language today the evoking/expression of that emotion happens to be done with words that we consider sinful. The sin in our lives is failing to be motivated to love our fellow man and bring them Jesus, not by using some words... I am pretty sure Paul would have dropped an F-bomb as well if he thought it would motivate people to live for Jesus.