In our society, it’s not unusual to hear people cursing. Sometimes it’s a real curse. Other times it’s simply a habit and thrown out there subconsciously or as an adjective. Occasionally, it’s done in such a way that it even sounds funny.
Cursing, of course, was never meant to be something funny. When they were first instituted, they were deadly serious and to be avoided at all costs. The very first ones were levied by God Himself. You may remember them from Genesis chapter three. Everything got cursed—the man, the woman, the serpent, the earth—you name it, it was cursed. We still sing about it when we sing “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Remember the line, “far as the curse is found?” Yeah, that’s the same curse.
Don’t Pay Attention
Because cursing has become so prevalent in our society, we ignore it much of the time. As it turns out, disregarding it is the Biblical thing to do. Koheleth (the author of Ecclesiastes) had some sage advice concerning the tossing around of curses. He wrote, “Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you—for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22).
I doubt if anyone likes to be cursed by someone. It can be discouraging, disappointing, and demoralizing. At the very least, it’s annoying. Who needs it?
That’s particularly true if the person doing the afflicting is someone close to you. If it’s from an enemy of sorts, it’s a tad easier to take—not a lot, but some.
Koheleth’s wise words point out that there are a lot of spoken words to which we shouldn’t pay any attention. We should probably use some discretion when observing such an admonition, but that shouldn’t be all that tough. Life teaches us that certain statements are pretty important to take to heart.
Be that as it may, allowing some of these things to roll off our backs is a response to true wisdom. This is especially true when we consider the reason for the teacher’s warning. He implies that one shouldn’t take those kinds of words too seriously when they come from someone we know (in this case, a servant). The reason seems to be tied into the concept of forgiveness.
He points out that we, too, have been guilty of cursing others. Even if it’s done in secret, entertaining the very thought of it is wrong. Even though you might not express it verbally, cursing someone is a violent act.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated that someone who is “angry with a brother or sister is subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:22). He tempered that, however, by also saying that we should forgive others as we have been forgiven (Matthew 6:12). He is in line with the writer of Ecclesiastes (and vice versa). Being a little less sensitive to the words of others and a little more forgiving seems to be in order.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]