Season: 9 Episode: 146
Listen to episode 146 in Spanish:
OMG! Jesus Christ! Oh my God! Some Christians think if they don’t say these, text these, or watch movies with these expresssions then they aren’t taking God’s name in vain. While all of this is true, there’s so much more to taking God’s name in vain than what we say. What if I told you words like OMG doesn’t even scratch the surface of what it means to take God’s name in vain? Let’s talk about what it looks like to take God’s name in vain and why He will hold those accountable who do.
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Hey guys! Welcome back to Her Faith Inspires where we take cultural issues and tackle them with biblical truth. This is the last call for Let’s Get Real for 6th-8th graders. Use my code SHANDA10 and get 10% off the regular price – if there are any spots left. Check out onlinechristiancourses.school to register.
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Today we are going to talk about what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain. I actually bought a book about this a few years ago and never read it – or haven’t read it yet, but that is one I am getting ready to tackle. I just can’t find it because it’s in storage. I’ve literally been saying that for a year now but we’re almost there. Moving across the country is no joke. I think I need to do an update on that with my husband soon.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand – what does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain? Does it mean saying things like Oh my God? Or OMG. Whenever I write OMG I write OMGoodness so people don’t think I’m taking God’s name in vain. But the reality of taking God’s name in vain is that it means so much more than saying or writing OMG.
I am currently studying the book of Collisions and the verse in Colossians 1:10 says, “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” Now, I know you might be wondering what this has to do with taking the Lord’s name in vain, but I will explain. It got my wheels turning and I had to dive deeper into what it looks like to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and how that is tied into not taking God’s name in vain.
This is what we’re going to talk about today:
- Why does God command us not to take His name in vain?
- What does taking God’s name in vain mean?
- Why is it important to understand what this means in our cultural moment as the church of God?
God’s command not to take His name in vain:
The command not to take God’s name in vain is in the OT, specifically Exodus 20:7 and it says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
The word vain means: Not yielding the desired outcome, fruitless, lacking substance or worth, per the Oxford Dictionary.
The NLT says it this way, “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse His name.”
The question here is what does it mean to misuse the name of the Lord? To misuse means to use it in the wrong way or for the wrong purpose per the Oxford Dictionary.
So misuse and vain are similes in these two versions.
So that’s the heart of the command not to take God’s name in vain – do not misuse the Lord’s name. But doesn’t that beg the question: what is the Lord’s name? Is it just Lord? Is it God? Is it YHWH? And what’s the big deal? Well, maybe if we understand what the Lord’s name is we can understand 1) when we misuse His name and 2) why He doesn’t want us to misuse it.
Also, think of it in practical terms – what if someone were to misrepresent you? Would you be Okay with it? If someone listens to my podcast and then tries to tell others what I say or teach, I would be really upset if they were to misrepresent me by telling them something contrary to what I believe or teach.
To make it more personal, I recently told one of my boys that his last name is Fulbright. He is a reflection of myself and his father. So I remind him of how to act and how to speak when he goes out of the house daily since we all share the same last name.
We can relate to this, can’t we? But on a much smaller scale.
Because here’s the kicker – I’m not God. I’m not holy. And there’s significant weight to the command not to take God’s name in vain because He is God and because He is a holy God, and even more so because there are consequences to taking God’s name in vain that we must not be ignorant of.
Now, if this is command number 3, what is command number 1 and 2? To have no other God’s before YHWH is command number 1. Do not make any images in the form of an idle is number 2. And do not take God’s name in vain is number 3. Keep the Sabbath holy is number 4. So commands 1-4 are what we call vertical commands, meaning they show the relationship between God and man.
Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”
Jesus said to love the Lord was the greatest commandment along with loving your neighbor as yourself – which means if you don’t hold to the first commandment – to love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind, then you will take God’s name in vain. Let’s face it, by the time we get to command number 3 – taking God’s name in vain, we’ve already drifted from the Lord being first in our lives.
Now, does that mean we won’t make mistakes and misrepresent God at times?
No. I’m not saying perfection here at all, but I am saying that taking God’s name in vain does not mean what we think it means if we are only aware of when we type OMG into a text or hear someone say it in a cuss word. It’s much more serious than that and I’ll get to it, I’m just trying to lay the foundation.
And for the people who might say that the Ten Commandments was part of the OT and Jesus fulfilled the OT so we don’t have to worry so much about taking God’s name in vain, I want to show you why the NT also speaks of the name of God, and more specially, Christ as we move forward – and why this is something we must be aware of as Christians.
So hang with me because I think this is going to help us in our day to day living for the Lord. And that brings me to the names of God.
What does taking God’s name in vain mean?
We already discussed what vain means – it means misusing or useless. But that also means we should understand why God doesn’t want us to take His name in vain. It’s more than just God thinking highly of Himself and playing a dictator. It shows an attitude of misunderstanding of God on the part of the one who takes His name in vain.
In other words, it shows we do not understand the character and nature of God. If we did, we would not take His name in vain.
I often refer to Proverbs 1:7 because it shows the attitude of reverence for those who know the Lord. It says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” To fear the Lord shows reverence. It shows an attitude of respect and aw toward a God who is above humanity.
That means God’s name is not equivalent to ours nor any other on earth.
In fact, the Bible uses many different names for God but each name expresses His character.
I don’t recommend a lot of women’s bible studies but I’ve done a couple by Mary A Kassian and they were excellent. The first one is in regard to God’s names: Knowing God by Name. The second one is just one I’ll throw in because it’s that good – it’s Conversation Peace. It really transformed the way I thought about how to talk to others. So good! But if you want to do one on the many names of God, study Knowing God by Name by Mary A Kassian.
Here are a few names for God in the OT that sheds light on who He is, His nature, and His character:
Adonai: Lord. Lord means He is our authority. To make God Lord means we are subject to Him and He is Lord of our lives. There is an automatic reverence to one who is Lord of your life. You look to Him for guidance, wisdom, direction. Which puts the responsibility on God to lead, to provide wisdom, to guide. And that is comforting to us and certainly OK with him.
When we say Jesus is Lord, we are saying Jesus is God and has supreme authority over our lives.
El Shaddai: God Almighty. It is also translated the All powerful One. If you understand the beginning of the universe, you know it had a beginning. That means the creator of the universe has to be all powerful and exist outside of space, time and matter. God is all powerful and if He is all powerful, there is no other as powerful as Him. This means He is limitless, infinite, and great. In fact, no flesh can stand in His presence because of this.
YHWH is the ancient Hebrew name for God and it’s written Y-H-W-H. In fact, there are no vowels in the ancient Hebrew written form, so that’s why it’s written that way. As I was studying Mary Kassian’s bible study on the names of God, she reported that the scribes who wrote YHWH respected God’s name so much, they would write with a certain pen, get to God’s name, put that pen down, pick up a new pen and write YHWH, then, after they finished writing YHWH, they would break the pen and toss it before picking up the original pen to continue writing.
That’s how cautious they were not to take the Lord’s name in vain.
So now that we have the name YHWH or Jehovah established, let’s look at other names of God with the word YHWH or Jehovah –
We have Jehovah Jireh, God provider.
Jehovah Rapha, God healer.
Jehovah M’kaddesh, the Lord who sanctifies
Jehovah Shalom, the Lord peace
God’s name is majestic as in Psalm 8:1. Majestic is having or showing beauty or dignity (Oxford dictionary)
His name is holy and awesome psalm 111:9.
Mary Kassian goes into the meaning of awesome and we often use it in a way that expresses something wonderful (I often do), but it actually means something that invokes fear. Awesome is impressive or daunting. There’s a reference here that shows we understand that our approach to God must be in the understanding that He is holy and we do not belong in His presence.
We are only there because of the blood of Christ. That is why Daniel fell flat on his face as though dead, and Isaiah cried out that he was undone when He saw the Lord high and lifted up in Isaiah 6. It’s why Moses could only see the shadow of God’s glory as He passed by but could not be in His presence.
God is awesome and holy and His name reflects that.
What about the NT and Jesus?
Well, the disciples and other followers of Jesus were not called Christians until Acts 11:26. Notice it says they were called Christians, not that they named themselves Christians. This shows they were representatives of Christ so they were attached to His name.
When we take God’s name in vain, we misrepresent Him. When we take His name in vain, we misuse it. We take for granted or don’t understand the true character of the one we serve.
Jesus’ name is just as holy because He is God.
Acts 4:11-12 says, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Philippians 2:9-11 says, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God.”
What does that say about reverencing God? The point here is that everyone, everyone will bow their knee to Jesus. It will either be now at the realization that He is Lord. Or it will be later, at the realization that we should have made Him Lord. Either way, it’s coming.
Jesus showed His authority as God when He said that if we pray and ask anything in His name, He would do it.
My point in laying the foundation of the names of God is to show you:
- What His name means – it embodies His character.
- It shows understanding that His name carries significance and weight and we are to reverence the name of God, even in casual conversation.
- It shows why our next point is so important.
Why is it important to understand the significance of God’s name in this cultural moment and as the church of God?
It’s clear that to take God’s name in vain is a violation of His commandments and is considered a sin. Help, us, Lord.
It is not blasphemy, so no one think it’s unpardonable or unforgivable. I know some are going to freak out right now. It is to be treated like any other sin. With that said, it doesn’t matter what time we’re living in – in the 21st century or the fist century or when Adam walked the earth – to take God’s name in vain is a sin and we should be mindful of how we use His name.
Whenever I watch a movie with people taking God’s name in vain, I cringe because I know what it means. It’s a disrespect and irreverence for a holy God. And it’s most likely done in ignorance, meaning the person doing it doesn’t understand God’s character and nature. Let’s face it, if they did, they wouldn’t do it.
With a culture that is increasingly more hostile toward God, we see a blatant disrespect for God.
I see people on other apologists pages saying He is a mythical creature. Yes, they are taking His name in vain.
Others refer to Him in the She or Her pronoun. Yes, that is taking God’s name in vain.
Our first response to the problem of taking God’s name in vain is to check ourselves. How do we speak of Him? But here’s the actual depth to taking God’s name in vain – it isn’t only what we say, it’s how we live that shows whether or not we take His name in vain.
When we call ourselves a Christian, we are saying we identify as a follower of Christ. We attache our identity to His and that means we have to represent Him well. Similarly to how I told my son his last name is Fulbright and when he walks out the door he represents the Fulbright name.
Many people are turned off to Christianity because of how Christians have represented Christ over the centuries.
Now, I understand that we are not perfect. And we never will be. Dr. Frank Turek often says people tell him church is full of hypocrites. To that he says, “Come on down! We have room for one more.”
I think one of his best analogies is if someone plays Bach atrociously, do you blame Bach or do you blame the one trying to replicate his talent? But I digress. The point is we can misrepresent the Lord in how we live our lives, thus taking His name in vain.
I believe that is the most overlooked point of taking God’s name in vain. It isn’t so much that we write OMG or say Oh my G.O.D. or that we use it in a cuss word, although that is very much taking His name in vain. It’s that we misuse and misrepresent His name and think nothing of it because we don’t realize that, too, is taking His name in vain.
All of life is worship and true worship is how we live as an expression of gratitude toward God.
Words or son (as I’ve mentioned before) are just descriptions of heartfelt worship to God. But what happens when the two do not match up? Our words are vain, empty, misused because they do not reflect a life that honors and reveres God.
Jesus said in Matthew 15:8-9, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” So here we see the reverse. We see someone not taking God’s name in vain verbally, but in action. We see that our words of honor to God are vain when our lives do not reflect that we mean them in how we live.
John Piper says it this way, ‘When the heart is emptied of affections for God, and words are emptied of the truth of God, all thoughts, all words, all emotions, and all actions are empty, pointless, futile, in vain. Therefore, to take the name of God in vain is to take up some expression of God’s reality into our thoughts or emotions or words or actions when the truth of God has gone out of them, and true affections for God are missing.”
It’s not as much about saying GD, or Jesus Christ, or OMG as much as it’s about the heart because words reflect what’s in our hearts.
If God is not before all other gods in our lives, He is not Lord of our lives, and we will take His name in vain.
And as far as what we do when others take His name in vain, like people who do not know God, what do we expect? If they do not live for Hm, why would they honor Him with their lips? I’m about to drop a scandalous statement but here it goes – someone who takes God’s name in vain and blatantly admits that He is not their God is being more true to their claims than those who claim to be of God with their mouths but do not honor Him as God in the way they live.
Which one does more harm?
We are only the light of the world when we say He is our God and we live a life where we walk in a manner worthy of Him, as Colossians 1 says.
The point of this episode is to shed light on what it really means to take God’s name in vain. He is a holy God and we are a people set apart from the world. We are to live different and speak different but it won’t happen until He is Lord of our lives.
When we understand who He is, we will put our trust and confidence in Him.
If you have any questions for me email me at email@example.com. If you enjoy this podcast, please leave 5 star rating and review on the podcast app. Don’t forget to go to shandafulbright.com to sign up for Baseline Apologetics and I’ll catch you on the next one.