You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
After returning from a missions trip to Romania I could proudly say, “Your mom!” to someone in six different languages. Growing up there was no surer way to start a fight than to bring up another kids mom in the conversation. Why is it that we defend our mothers’ names so passionately, yet throw around our Lord’s as if it were a common expletive? This irony becomes even greater after reading verses such as Exodus 20:7 and God’s promise to “not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”
Banking on the assumption that many of us take the Lord’s name in vain out of ignorance rather than outright defiance, let me caution you in three different areas where Scripture further explains this command. The majority of us have broken the third commandment in one or more of the following ways.
In biblical days it was such an unthinkable act to use the Lord’s name wrongly that those who cursed God often did so within their hearts rather than out loud. Cursing today is almost completely removed from the concept found in Scripture. When we use the Lord’s name in vain while cursing it is usually on account of anger or surprise. Does this excuse us from the Third Commandment though? I should think not. Even pagan religions today hold their gods’ names with so high regard that to use it as a curse word would be unthinkable. This truth alone should shame any Christian that throws their God’s name around like a four-letter word.
To swear by the name of God is a serious act; a truth that we fail to understand completely. Anyone who swore to God or by God’s name in the Bible faced certain death or punishment if they turned on their word. To swear by God’s name is to say, “You can trust me because we will make a covenant together with the Lord and He will hold me accountable to what I promise.” I highly encourage you to study the biblical covenant before the next time you use the phrase, “I swear to God.”
Source of Influence and Strength
Possibly the greatest way Christian’s today misuse the name of the Lord is summed up in the phrase, “God told me…” Not much needs to be explained concerning the ways this is used because we have all done it. Let me just caution you to be very careful with the way you throw God’s name around as a source of influence or added strength to your opinion. Before saying, “God says…” or “God’s will is…” or even “the Bible says,” make sure that 1) it is true and 2) you are not using that truth to promote a selfish motive. When we do this we come dangerously close to “bottling God” as some type of incantation or source of power.
To take the name of the Lord in vain is possible in many different ways. The response to each of them is exactly the same, “The Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” I highly recommend that you do not allow your ignorance to lead you into transgression of the Third Commandment any longer.