I’ll bet you’ve heard this one before. “Holy cow!” Now think about that statement for a bit. Really think about it. Now try not to laugh. It really is ridiculous, isn’t it? Sometimes, when something unexpected or exciting happens, we proclaim “Holy cow!” without actually realizing what we’re saying. Some may think that it’s “just something people say,” but I really don’t think that that’s any excuse to ignore what the Bible teaches. And yes, the Bible does have something to say about it.
The first word is “holy.” This word is not just another everyday term. How often do you call something holy? When’s the last time you said, “Wow, that’s pretty holy!”? We just don’t use this word very often. Why? Because it’s reserved for very special purposes; mostly in the spiritual range. God made the seventh day holy when He created the world. The very ground that Moses was standing on when he spoke to God at the burning bush was holy. God refers to things pure and Godly as “holy” many times in the Bible. When we say “Holy cow” or “Holy crap,” we are actually calling the cow or crap “holy,” whether we realize this or not. Now cows are obviously NOT holy no matter what Hindus think, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t think there are many things less holy than crap. These exclamations are absolutely ridiculous!
“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” – Hebrews 12:14
The first verse gives an example of a blameless heart established in holiness. The second verse is especially important. It explains how NO ONE will see the Lord without holiness. That’s pretty significant if you ask me. Holiness is a big deal to God, and not something to be messed around with.
“It is a snare to say rashly, “It is holy,” and to reflect only after making vows.” – Proverbs 20:25
This warning given in Proverbs is a two-fold message. The first says that it is a snare to call something holy without thinking. That’s precisely what we do when we say “holy cow.” I understand that we aren’t exactly proclaiming that cows are holy to the person we’re talking to; we’re simply expressing our shock or amazement with something. But I believe we are still to respect the words we use, no matter what our intentions are, and to avoid using very serious terms as just a phrase of exclamation. And if the Bible tells us this is wrong, shouldn’t we eliminate it from our everyday conversations with our friends and family? Shouldn’t we obey God in this area no matter how “small” of an issue we may see it as? I think so. Some may argue that it’s only a snare and not necessarily a sin, and it’s not really that bad to say it. I disagree. Now I’m not saying that you’re going to Hell if you caught yourself using it yesterday, but if the Bible calls something a snare, we are to avoid it, right? If someone tells you that it would not be wise to walk through a minefield, but you aren’t necessarily going to hit a mine, would you prance right on through the minefield? I think not. You would pay attention to the advice given to you, especially if the person giving the advice was the Creator of Heaven and earth, your Lord and your Savior.
The second part of the verse tells us not to reflect only after making vows. This relates very well to my “I Swear” post. It’s basically saying that we shouldn’t make vows (say “I swear” or call something holy) only to realize what we said later and regret saying something so sacred so fast.
So next time something crazy happens, try not to proclaim anything about sacred livestock. Instead, glorify God in your speech. Speech is a huge topic in the Bible, and it’s very dangerous. We are to watch our tongues, because we will give an account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word we speak (Matthew 12:36-37). I think that’s pretty serious, don’t you? How about we give credit for holiness where it is due instead of absentmindedly giving it to a farm animal? Let’s treat this gift of language with the respect and constant attention it deserves.