About Blasphemy by Saint John Chrysostom

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Blasphemy! Nothing worse!

There is nothing worse than blasphemy! No sin can be compared with it. Nothing else enrages God so much, as for His name to be blasphemed. For this no one should either be negligent and be swayed himself, but neither should he be indifferent, if he hears his friend or his enemy blaspheming. This sin increases all the evils, disturbs and confuses our whole life and in the end prepares for us unending hell and unbearable punishment.

The person who is impious and blasphemes God, who goes against His laws and never wants to abandon this absurd argument, resembles the drunkard and crazy person. He acts worse than those who are in a state of intoxication and have lost their reasoning, even if he himself doesn’t seem to feel it.

Blasphemy and lewd speech, even if they are born in the soul, don’t remain however in it, but also defiles the tongue which spews them out, they also pollute the hearing which puts up with it. Like other poisons they poison both the soul and the body.

Why are you blaspheming?

There are some, who, as soon as they make some mistake or suddenly someone swears at them or they get sick or they are hurting, they immediately blaspheme. In this way however, neither do they correct the transgression nor do they take revenge on the person cursing them nor do they soften the pain of their illness, but they furthermore lose the spiritual gain of patience as well.

Tell me, o man, for what reason are you blaspheming and spewing evil speech? Maybe will your pain become lighter? But even if we suppose that it would become lighter, would you dare sacrifice the salvation of your soul to achieve the consolation of your body?

What are you doing, my man? Are you blaspheming your Savior and Benefactor and Protector, and Governor? Or don’t you feel that you are running towards the cliff and pushing yourself into the pit of the worst destruction? The devil crafts everything to throw you into this pit. And if he sees that with pain you blaspheme, he will immediately increase the pain and will make it greater, to throw you into despair. If he sees however that you forbear it bravely and that, the more the pain increases, the more you thank God, then he immediately departs, because he is besieging you in vain.

And what happens with the dog who stands next to table happens: If he sees the person eating throwing something of those which are on the table, he remains there continually. If however he stands near there once and twice without getting anything, he then departs, since it will be unbeneficial for him to remain.

Thus also the devil constantly has his mouth open to us. If you throw him, precisely as to the dog, a blasphemous word, once he takes it, he will again attack. If however you persist thanking God, you wiped him out in hunger and forced him to depart right away.

Thanksgiving as an antidote

So instead of blaspheming in difficult moments, give thanks. Instead of falling into despair, give glorification. Open your heart to the Lord, shout loudly praying, shout loudly glorifying God. Thus also your misfortune is comforted, because the devil flees far away with the thanksgiving, and God’s help comes near you and protects you.

If you blaspheme, you will both lose God’s alliance and will make the devil wilder against you, but also you will harm yourself worse.

No good is equal with thanksgiving, precisely as nothing is worse than blasphemy. Thanksgiving is a great treasure, great wealth, invincible good, a strong weapon. On the contrary, blasphemy makes the evil worse and deprives us of even more of the things we lost.

Did you lose money? If you thank God, you benefited your soul and obtained greater wealth, because you gained the favor of the Lord. If however you blasphemed, aside from the things you lost, you also lose your salvation. Thus, you both won’t find those things again and you destroy your soul.

“But there”, you will justify yourself, “I am swayed in difficult circumstances and lose control”.

No, the circumstances are not to blame for this, but your own indifference.

But maybe is poverty supposedly to blame?

Neither poverty is the cause of blasphemers. Because then all the poor ought to be blaspheming. We see however many, who live with indigence and excessive  deprivations, constantly thanking, whereas others, although they enjoy both wealth and delight, not ceasing to curse and blaspheme.

So let us not say that poverty and sickness and difficult circumstances force us to blaspheme. Not poverty, but foolishness. Not sickness, but scorning God. Not the repeated misfortunes, but the lack of piety leads those who are not careful both to blasphemy and to every evil.

The example of Job

Proof of all these things is the blessed Job, who, while he was in a great wretched state, not only didn’t blaspheme, but glorified God and was saying: “The Lord gave me the goods, the Lord them from me. As it seemed good to the Lord thus it also happened. May the Lord’s name be blessed unto the ages.” (Job 1:21).

So when the devil thought that he defeated Job, then he set out to leave ashamed, without saying a word.

Stop, o devil! Why are you leaving? Didn’t all the things you wanted happen? Didn’t you destroy all his flocks? Didn’t you kill his children? Didn’t you ruin his body too? So why are you leaving?”

“I’m leaving”, says the devil, “because while all the things I wanted happened, that which I mainly desired and for which reason I devised all the other things, I didn’t achieve. I’m leaving, because Job didn’t blaspheme. I caused him so many misfortunes, to make him blaspheme. Since however Id didn’t manage to do it, I didn’t gain anything. Instead of annihilating him, I made him brighter and more glorious”.

So Job is praised not because he suffered so many evils, but because he forbore everything thanking God. Another person suffers much less, and nevertheless blasphemes, gets frustrated, curses the whole world, gets angry at God…This person is condemned not because he suffered, but because he blasphemed. And the misfortunes didn’t force him to blaspheme, because then Job ought to have blasphemed. He blasphemed on account of his sick disposition.

So analogous with our own disposition, everything happens, either sufferable or insufferable things.

A bad habit

Many times the tongue out of habit rushes to say a bad word. So then, before spewing blasphemy, bite it strongly with your teeth. It is preferable for blood to run now, than for it to desire in the next life a drop of water and to not be able to achieve either this consolation. It is better to forbear the temporal pain now, than to undergo eternal punishment then, precisely as the tongue of the rich person of the parable also, who even though it was aflame, it couldn’t find any comfort (Luke 16:24-25).

And what other forgiveness will we have or what defence, even if a myriad of times we put forth habit as the justification?

It is said that one of the ancient orators* (he means Demosthenes) had the habit of walking moving his right shoulder constantly. However he defeated this habit in the following way: he placed above his shoulders sharpened knives, and thus, from the fear that he not be cut, he was healed of the evil habit.

You also imitate him to tame your tongue. Instead of a knife however, put above it the fear of God’s punishment, and of course you will win. Because it is impossible for us to ever be defeated, when we strive with attention and diligence to do this struggle.

God’s majesty

God gave a commandment to love your enemies, and you turn God away who loves you? He gave a commandment that you say good words about those who swear at you and that you give blessings to those who speak evil of you, and do you speak evil of your Benefactor and Protector without having been treated unjustly in anything? Maybe supposedly couldn’t he free you from the trial for which you are now blaspheming Him? However He didn’t do it, for you to become more worthy.

Isn’t it, I wonder, absurd, for us to grab in our mouth with impiety, scorn and for nothing the Lord of the angel’s name, at the moment when the heavenly Powers pronounce His holy name with trembling, with surprise and admiration? “I saw the Lord”, says the prophet Isaiah, “sitting on a tall throne, and the Seraphim flying around Him and shouting to one another and saying all together: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of the powers. All the earth is full of His glory” (Is. 6:1-3).

And while, if it is necessary for you to grab the Gospel, you first wash your hands, and then hold it with great respect and piety, you don’t freak to bring untimely on your tongue the Master of the Gospel and to disparage Him?

And God, of course, no one can harm with his insults nor make him more brilliant with his glorifications. God always maintains the same glory, which is neither increased with the praises nor lessened with the blasphemies. To people, on the contrary, the following odd thing happens: Whoever glorifies Him, they gain benefit from the glorification, whereas whoever blasphemes Him and humiliates Him, destroys their own self.

Someone said about whoever blasphemes God: “He who throws a stone upwards, throws it on his head” (Wisdom of Sirach 27:25). He who in other words throws a stone upwards, in the end accepts a strong hit on his head, because the stone will not be able to traverse the sky, but will return to him who threw it. Thus also he who shoots blasphemies to heaven. He will never be able to ever harm God and in nothing, since He is much higher and taller, so that He cannot accept any harm, with this action of his however he sharpens the sword against his soul, showing ingratitude towards his Benefactor.

Just punishment

“He”, Scripture says, “who speaks evil of his father or his mother, should be punished with death” (Ex. 21:16).

This command prevailed in the time of the Old Testament, when the spiritual age of humanity was infantile. What could we say now about those who, while we live in the age of grace, don’t speak evil of their father or their mother, but of God Himself, who is the creator and governor of the whole world?

What punishment will be imposed on them? What analogous hell will suffice for their wickedness? What fiery river, what sleepless worm, what outer darkness, what bonds, what gnashing, what crying? All the tortures, both the present ones and the future ones, aren’t enough to punish as ought the soul which reached such wickedness.

But the blasphemers aren’t worthy even to see the sun. Whoever in other words, blasphemes God, is unworthy to enjoy His own creations, at the moment furthermore when the creations themselves glorify and honor their Maker. Just like a son who curses and dishonors his father, is not worthy to be served by his (father’s) servants. On the contrary, furthermore, he is worthy of heavy punishment.

And if again whoever blasphemes the earthly king is punished, how much more so ought whoever blasphemes the King of the angels be punished?

“But why”, someone will ask, “are some punished in this life and some in the next one”?

Truly, God punishes others here and others not. He punishes, in other words, here some blasphemers, so that they stop their wickedness and lighten their punishment in the future life or even to completely deliver them. The rest of the blasphemers, seeing their exemplary punishment, can become more prudent. Others again God doesn’t punish, so that they are shamed of His longsuffering, to repent and escape both the punishment here and there. If however they persist in  their evil, then they will undergo greater punishment for the complete scorn of God’s revengelessness.

God forbears us

So let’s abstain from evil speech, lewd words and blasphemies. Let us blaspheme neither our neighbor nor God. Because many of those who speak evil of their fellow man, reached even to this craziness, to lift up their tongue against the Lord of all creation.

And we observe that God is cursed every day and no one cares. What do I say every day? Every hour! From rich and poor, from those who are prosperous and from those who are afflicted, from the downtrodden and from the tyrants…And He is cursed, whereas He is present and sees and hears! We enrage Him every day without repenting, and He forbears us with great longsuffering.

Pay attention to what way God Himself speaks to us when He is cursed. In the Old Testament He says: “O my people, what did I do to you? “ (Micah 6:3). And in the New Testament: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). Neither did He throw a lightning bolt nor did He command the sea to rise up and drown the blasphemers nor to open the ground and to swallow them. But He also dawns the sun and sends the rain and grants everything abundantly to those who blaspheme Him.

God forbears, He longsuffers and is ready to forgive the blasphemers if they repent and promise that they will no longer ever blaspheme, so long as one confesses his sin, and he will be delivered of the divine punishment.

How you will be corrected

So cry, sigh, give charity, defend yourself to God and reconcile yourself with Him. Cleanse your tongue and don’t enrage Him. If someone with hands full of dung would grab your feet and beg you, not only wouldn’t you want to hear him, but you would also kick him. How now do you dare to approach God with your filthy tongue? Because the tongue is the hand of whoever prays and with it they lean on God’s knees.

Consequently don’t defile it with blasphemies, so that God doesn’t also tell you: “If you increase your prayers, I will not hear you” (Is. 1:15), because “from the tongue depends life and death” (Prov. 18:21) and “from your words you will be justified and from your words you will be condemned” (Math. 12:37). Guard your tongue more than your eyes. The tongue is like a royal horse. If you put a bit on it and teach it to move in a disciplined way, the king will be able to sit on it. If however you leave it without a bit to turn here and there to be unruly, then it becomes a chariot of the devil and of the demons.

Think that, when you commune, you accept in your mouth the Body and Blood of Christ, and keep the tongue clean of lewd words, cruses, blasphemies, oath breakings etc. Because it is a destructive thing, for the tongue which was painted with the master’s Blood and became a golden knife, for you to use it in blasphemies. Respect the honor with which God honored it and don’t lower it to the baseness of sin.

Lift up your brother!

So because I spoke to you about blasphemy, I want to ask you all for a favor: To chasten the people who blaspheme in your city. Let’s limit their mania. Let’s make their mind prudent. Let’s strive for their salvation. Let’s stop this absurdity of theirs. Let’s put a blockage in their mouths, let’s close them as if they are fatal wounds and let us change them to the opposite. And if it is needed for us to die for this action of ours, something like this will bring us great gain. So, let us not be indifferent, when we see our common Master to be cursed. This indifference will bring us great harm in the entire city because the crime of blasphemy burdens all of us. It is a public injustice.

And don’t tell me this cold word: “What does it interest me? I don’t have any relationship with the blasphemer”.

Only with the devil don’t we have any relationship whereas with all people we have many common things. Because they also have the same nature with us, they dwell in the same land; they have the same Lord and are destined to enjoy the same good with us. So let us not say that we don’t have anything common with them, because this is a satanic saying and reveals diabolic inhumanity.

Isn’t it I wonder improper, when we see in the market people clashing, to run to reconcile the clashing people, and –why should I say people? – When we see some animal fallen, we all run to help it to get up, whereas for our brethren, who are being lost shall we be indifferent?

The blasphemer resembles a loaded animal, which fell, because he couldn’t bear the burden of his anger. Approach and lift him up both with words and with works, both with leniency and with strictness. Let the medicine of the cure be varied.

If we thus strive for the salvation of our neighbor, the blasphemers will quickly be corrected and we will become longed for and worthy of love. And the most important thing, we will all be granted to enjoy the goods which have been prepared for us, with the grace and philanthropy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, belongs the glory and the honor unto the ages of ages.

Translated by Fr. Nicholas Palis from a pamphlet “Voice of the Fathers” No. 26, by the Sacred Paracletos Monastery, Oropos, Attica, 2002;

Edited by Irene Maginas.