The Dirtiest Word in the Bible

When I was a kid, there always seemed to be that one kid who knew where all the “good parts” of some books were. Of course, looking back, they were rarely the “good parts’ but were really just the “dirty parts.”

For the uninitiated (and some Christians can count themselves among that number), the Bible has quite a bit of NSFW content. I mean, if you dig through there (and, really, you barely have to dig), there’s some racy, gory stuff in those onion skin pages.

I’m not trying to be lewd for the sake of being provocative, but we have to admit that there’s some racy, gory, OMG content in the Bible.  Whether it’s Lot’s repeated indiscretions with his daughters; Haman’s not-so-pleasant ending with Xerxes the Impaler; the ultra awkward family reunions Jacob had to have with his literal sister-wives and treacherous father-in-law; the story that makes Sodom and Gomorrah sound like a romp through Mr. Rogers’ “Land of Make Believe”; Judah’s GIANT “oops-I-thought-she-was-just-a-prostitute” encounter; Jehoram’s remarkably disgusting two-year battle with a bowel disease that ended… well, horribly; the account of Phineas, the son of Eleazar, who took “uncompromising” to gut-wrenching lengths; the time Jael, wife of Heber, took care of business with a sleeping enemy commander, a tent peg and a giant hammer; or Ezekiel describing the… intimate areas of Egyptian men; the account of the sons of Korah getting sucked up into the earth Sarlacc style; or the time Samson  rifled through the corpse of a donkey, grabbed the jawbone, put the deadliest smackdown on a thousand (1,000!!!) Philistines, and then wrote a song about it… The Bible is replete with stuff that you wouldn’t feel confortable reading to a kid without some discretionary editing.

But the worst word in the Bible isn’t found in any of these stories.  The worst word in the Bible is found 40 times in the New Testament alone.  It’s translated a few different ways into English, but the word, in Greek, is ὑποτάσσω (hypotasso).  It was often used as a reference to the manner in which troops were arranged under the command of a leader.  Colloquially it was used to to describe an attitude of cooperating or assuming a responsibility.

As I said, we find this word 40 times in the NT.  It’s found in:

  • Luke 2:51
  • Luke 10:17
  • Luke 10:20
  • Romans 8:7
  • Romans 8:20
  • Romans 10:3
  • Romans 13:1
  • Romans 13:5
  • 1Corinthians 14:32
  • 1Corinthians 14:34
  • 1Corinthians 15:27
  • 1Corinthians 15:28
  • 1Corinthians 16:16
  • Ephesians 1:22
  • Ephesians 5:21
  • Ephesians 5:22
  • Ephesians 5:24
  • Philemon 3:21
  • Colossians 3:18
  • Titus 2:5
  • Titus 2:9
  • Titus 3:1
  • Hebrews 2:5
  • Hebrews 2:8
  • Hebrews 12:9
  • James 4:7
  • 1Peter 2:13
  • 1Peter 2:18
  • 1Peter 3:1
  • 1Peter 3:5
  • 1Peter 3:22
  • 1Peter 5:5

So, what makes this word so “dirty”? Well, according to Merriam-Webster’s, a “dirty word” is simply “a word, expression, or idea that is disagreeable or unpopular in a particular frame of reference.” And the word hypotasso is translated in most of these verses as:


That’s a dirty word.

We don’t like this word. We give our hearts to the Lord, but we balk at the idea of truly submitting our lives to Him. Our relationship with Him tends to be more along the lines of “Lord, help me do what I want to do” rather than “Lord, help me to do Your will.”

It goes much further than that of course. Children don’t submit to their parents. (“You just don’t understand me!”) We don’t submit to our bosses. (“That guy’s an idiot! If we would just do it my way the job would be easier.”) Don’t even get me started on that whole “Wives submit to your husbands” thing… I just don’t have the strength.

The point is, submission is not a word we like.  But it is a concept we must embrace and understand. Submission to authority is a key factor in receiving blessings, but it is also vital in understanding the order that God ordained.

I use the Lead Umbrella analogy. Being under authority, under a covering, is like being under a Lead Umbrella during an acid rain storm. As long as you’re under the umbrella, you’ll be fine. But when you step out from under the umbrella… well, you know… Acid! In the same way, when we stay under authority, we are protected. There are even passages in the Bible that talk about being under the authority of someone who is not a believer as being not only the right thing to do, but a sure way to win them to the Lord.

I know it’s difficult, and I struggle with this all the time.  But submission to authority is not something to toy with. Track every sin in the Bible and see how every one of them begins with pride which is in response to someone not wanting to be under the authority of another. Every one! Every time!

We want to do things our own way. We have opinions, and points-of-view, and ideas that are GOOD and we DESERVE to be heard. It’s what’s right! But there is a way that seems right to people, but it leads to death. Do you want to be blessed? Then submit to the authority that God has put you under.

And stop thinking of submission as something “dirty.”

“be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

-Ephesians 5:18b-21

Question: How do you feel about submission? Is it easy? Is it difficult? Is it necessary? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

ADDENDUM (for Clarification):

Are there exceptions to the authority rule?  Yes. If the person whose authority you are under is ordering you to do something that God forbids or is prohibiting you from do something that God commands, then you have to “obey God rather than men.”  It’s that simple.  Additionally, if you are in a relationship (be it a personal or professional one) that is abusive or destructive, you have a responsibility to do all you can to salvage it, but in NO WAY does God expect you to risk your life or the lives of your children for the sake of “honoring authority.”  In many ways, that’s a different topic altogether.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “The Dirtiest Word in the Bible

  1. I wondered what I would find when I saw your title and link to this blog post on Facebook. Great title and very relevant to our culture. Too many people lack the ability to submit to others.