Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
I briefly mentioned, in yesterday’s post, one way in which Christians take the Lord’s name in vain. Unfortunately, too many of us have become very casual about this commandment, and I thought I’d take the time to mention some things we should consider.
Taking God’s Name in Vain
“Vain” means useless, or empty. This verse, one of the Ten Commandments, tells us to not use God’s name in an empty or useless way. God is to be respected as high and holy. This isn’t optional.
I read an article a couple of weeks ago (unfortunately, I forgot to note who gave me the link) which I thought was excellent. I know nothing about the author, but her article (What does the Bible say about OMG?) is excellent. Too many Christians, in moments of excitement, dismay, etc., say, “Oh my God,” — and it isn’t a prayer. Others, more “refined,” say, “Oh my gosh,” which is effectively the same watered down a little bit. When we do this, we are saying God’s name without any real meaning to it — using it vainly.
Text-speak and Internet usage have made this far worse. Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter too often encourage people to speak quickly and mindlessly, and it is so very easy to type in “OMG” without even thinking about it. Is that consistent with reverence for our God? If you see a Christian doing this, perhaps you could send a private note asking him to stop. He’s probably not even thought about it.
No one ever says, “Oh my Satan,” or a watered-down “Oh my Santa.” Or, for that matter, “Oh my spaghetti” or “Oh my desk.” Why do unbelievers always use “Oh my God”? We know why — the god of this world is influencing them to use words that diminish reverence for the Almighty God. Why should Christians even mimic that with a watered-down “Oh my gosh”?
“In Jesus’ Name, Amen”
I am NOT saying people should not pray in Jesus’ name. He told us to. I wrote about this briefly yesterday (Proverbs 10:24). The point of praying in Jesus’ name is to pray as Jesus’ representative, and that means praying as He would have us pray. It is not a magic spell to make our wish list come true, or vain repetition stuck at the end of our prayers.
It is intended to cause us to think about whether we are praying for things that we can and should appropriately ask in His name. It is to remind us of the glorious privilege given to us as His servants.
“I’ll Pray For You”
If you say you are going to pray for someone, you speak as a Christian who can speak directly to God. You are promising to speak to Him. If you don’t do it when you said you would, you took God’s name in vain. You talked about communication with Him in an empty and meaningless way.
It is not wrong to tell people we will pray for them. But if we say it, we must mean it and do it. I have a friend who is careful about this. I don’t think I have ever heard him say, “I’ll pray for you.” He does say, “I just prayed for you,” or, “Let’s pray about this right now.” Something to consider….
For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.
If you are called a “Christian”, you are called a follower of Christ. You carry His name. If your behaviour gives sinners excuses to blaspheme, you are taking His name in vain. Those who bear His name must live by it.
T-Shirts, Bumper Stickers, Cute Sayings
I’m not going to get specific here, because those who want to nitpick can nitpick. Rather, a suggestion: read Isaiah 6, and see how Isaiah responded to his vision of the Almighty. Look at Revelation 1, and see John’s response when he saw the Lord of glory. Remember that even in these visions, not all of God’s glory and majesty was fully revealed, or these men would have died. And ask yourself, does my bumper sticker, my t-shirt, my cute expression that I like to use, all these ways in which I speak of the Lord, do they really fit with who He is?
When I stand before Him (or rather, when I fall on my face before Him) will I be glad I used that bumper sticker and wore that t-shirt, or will I be horribly ashamed? Am I altogether too casual and cutesy in how I speak of Him?
“God Told Me”
Many times, we hear Christians say that “God told me” to do something. Unless it is written in God’s Word, God doesn’t tell me to believe your statement (even if you do believe it). If there is no reason I should believe that God told you, there is no reason to say it. The Bible doesn’t tell us to go around saying “God told me.”
If you make a statement the Bible didn’t tell you to make, and I should examine what you say (rather than take your word for it), then to claim God’s authority is to claim it vainly. “God told me” in any context other than what the Scriptures have said is taking God’s name in vain — even if you personally believe He did tell you. God doesn’t tell others to believe you when you say it, so it is an empty claim. You shouldn’t say it.
“God Gave me Peace”
It’s amazing how many times God “gives peace” to people who are doing the exact opposite of what He said in Scripture. Just because you feel comfortable about your decision doesn’t mean God has given you peace. Perhaps all it means is that you’ve started to have better sleeping and eating habits so you physically feel better. Perhaps it means you’ve seared your conscience so badly that it isn’t functioning anymore.
God does give peace, the Scriptures say so. But the Scriptures never say we should make decisions by checking our “peace-meter” to see if it is measuring high enough. “Peace-meters” are often inaccurate — God’s Word is not. Many times, when people say “God gave me peace,” they are merely taking God’s name in vain, speaking it meaninglessly, claiming some kind of God-authority for decisions that He manifestly does not approve.
I am sure there are other ways in which we do not honour our Lord’s name as we should. We, as Christians, need to take God’s holiness seriously, and give Him due reverence. We should encourage and help one another to be alert to failings in this area, so that we can speak as He would have us speak.
Somewhat related later post: Why is “Jesus Christ” used as “Blasphemous Profanity”?