Mark Escalera at Defending. Contending. ran (with permission) my post, “OMG” — and Other Ways Christians Take God’s Name in Vain (this continues to be, by far, my most shared post). In the comments at DefCon someone said she has tried to break the habit of saying, “Oh my goodness!”
This also is something Christians might say from time to time that has no real profit, is often just a “sanctified swearing substitute,” and is highly dubious theologically as well:
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
So much for “my goodness” — that pretty much covers it, doesn’t it? The only “goodness” we have is the goodness of God, so He is our goodness, our righteousness. What exactly do the words “oh my goodness” mean, for a Christian? If you say this, your words are not saying what you mean by them….
It seems this is another expression we really could do without. It isn’t something I ever said a lot, but I became convinced a while ago that I would be best looking to stop. As with most things we want to do to please our Lord, Scripture provides some help, and I thought I would take the time here to briefly expand on my answer over at DefCon.
Step 1. Memorise the following verse, or at least the first half of it:
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Step 2. Whenever you slip into the habit and say, “Oh my goodness,” remind yourself your goodness is as filthy rags.
If that doesn’t do it, engage step 3.
Step 3. Tell people close to you (friends, family) you are trying to break the habit, and ask them, every time you say, “Oh my goodness,” to respond, “…is as filthy rags.” 🙂 If nothing else, you’ll stop just because you get tired of hearing that response!
If they don’t know the Lord, so much the better. You are giving them an important part of the Gospel in a way they will not be likely to ever forget, showing them your commitment to please the Lord in small things as well as big, and demonstrating a humble awareness of your own sinfulness and need of a Saviour.
In fact, maybe you should just jump straight to step 3!
As with so many other statements that we make unthinkingly, the Christian who says “Oh my goodness” almost certainly never means any disrespect to God, never means to exalt himself or be self-righteous. It is almost always just a habit into which he has drifted without even thinking about it.
If our Lord has blessed you with a relationship which permits it, perhaps when you hear another Christian say it you can give a gentle reminder of how that expression matches up with Scripture. Or, if he has a sense of humour, just be ready with a quick response: “Oh my goodness”” — “…is as filthy rags!”