The Third Commandment states that we are not to use the name of the Lord in vain (Exodus 20:7). To use the Lord's name in vain is to use it flippantly (i.e., to take it lightly without thinking), profanely (i.e., to treat God whose name is holy with irreverence) or deceitfully (i.e., to be dishonest in invoking the name of God). For example, a very popular saying today is the seemingly innocent expression "Oh My God" (OMG) which is said by many without realizing they are flippantly (i.e., vainly) using God's name. Others ask God to condemn or damn something by use of the infamous GD combination thus profaning His name (more on why this is so egregious latter in this article). And still others praise God while in church on Sunday but then live hedonistically the rest of the week thus deceitfully (and hypocritically (1)) using the name of God! In addition, using the name of God to call on supernatural powers that have nothing to do with Him is also deceitfully using the name of God in vain. So, have you ever used the Lord's name in vain? If You Can't Say Amen, Say Oh Me!
Flippant Use of God's Name in Vain
I remember as a young boy while hanging out on the back porch with my Dad that I exclaimed that something was awesome! You would be correct in realizing that awesome was not an expression in use in those days; however, I have always lived ahead of the times - perhaps to a fault! My Father began to "coach" me concerning reserving certain words for use in describing God and His works. That is, certain words should be set apart (i.e., be treated as holy) for use in our description of God and talking with Him and not made common by everyday use (Psalms 111:9). Think about it, just about everything today can be considered awesome except for God! Consequently, God seems small(1) and all our problems seem large. Thanks for the wisdom Dad! (2)
Profane Use of God's Name in Vain
In the Lord of the Rings Movie "The Fellowship of the Ring" Gandalf quotes the words of the evil Lord Sauron (a type of Satan) with the result that it hurt the ears of the leader of the elves Elrond and shook their peaceful abode. This is because Sauron only lived to kill, steal and destroy.
Similarly, I feel this hurt when others around me use the GD combo of words. Why? Because God is the only one with the authority to condemn to Hell (Luke 12:5. Revelations 20:11-15); however, He is the very one that set out to save the world and not condemn it (John 3:16,17). His words are full of spiritual life not death (John 6:63). This GD combo of words was authored by Satan(1) the thief who lives to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Satan tirelessly asks God to condemn man (Satan means accuser of the brethren Zechariah 3:1. Job 1:6-11. Revelation 12:10). So when someone uses the GD combo they are joining with Satan's petition to condemn mankind and that is why it is so egregious! Furthermore, any use of cursing, dirty jokes, or derogatory name calling, etc. by those that claim to be Christians (meaning little Christ's Acts 11:26) is a profane use of His name.
Deceitful use of God's Name in Vain
Say you have a need in your life and pray to God in His name(1) to meet that need according to the promises(1) of the Bible. However, rather than standing in faith(1) you continue to worry (i.e., instead of being a prayer warrior you are a prayer worry-er!) and end up attempting to solve the problem in your own ability. Perhaps even working seven days a week(1), stealing(1), or lying(1) on taxes to obtain more money. Consequently, you will have asked God to meet your needs but then deceitfully and hypocritically turned to Satan (by violating God's laws just like Adam and Eve(1) in eating the forbidden fruit) to supply them! Realize, Satan is like a loan shark in that whatever he promises you will take you farther than you want to go, cost you more than you want to pay, keep you longer than you want to stay! Think of those that turn to Satan for happiness through drugs and see that this statement is true. Furthermore, using the name of God to call on supernatural powers that have nothing to do with Him is another deceitful use of God's name in vain (Matthew 24:4,5. Luke 21:8. ).
The Law of Consequence for Violating the Commandment
We are held accountable for the words we speak including the use of the name of God (Matthew 12:36,37). Furthermore, we can use our voice to either bless others with life or curse them with death (Proverbs 18:21). Nevertheless, we always reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7. Job 4:8. Hosea 8:7). If you sow words of cursing you will reap death (e.g., death of relationships, death of career, sickness ultimately leading to physical death, etc.) (James 3:6). Realize, we are what we speak even more than what we eat! (Proverbs 13:2. Proverbs 18:20) That is why we are not to speak words that tear others down such as "curse" words, dirty jokes or calling others derogatory names, etc. (Ephesians 5:4). Rather we are to speak "blessing" words full of grace(3) that build up, coach and motivate others (Ephesians 4:29. Colossians 4:6. James 3:13. 1 Peter 1:15). Furthermore, we are not to talk incessantly saying nothing (Proverbs 10:19. Proverbs 13:3. Proverbs 15:14. Ecclesiastes 5:3. Matthew 12:36. Proverbs 17:27. 1 Timothy 6:20 ). While through will power we may be able to fake that we only speak words of blessing; nevertheless, when we are emotionally distraught what we have in our spiritual heart will come out of our mouths (Luke 6:45). Certainly use will power for the immediate fix of not using inappropriate speech; however, realize that long term correction requires you to change what you are thinking about because it is what you think about that goes into your spiritual heart(1) and ultimately out of your mouth (Philippians 4:8).
The Opportunity of Blessing for Keeping the Commandment
Again, if we speak words of blessing to God and others we will reap life (John 17:3) (Greek transliterated word for this type of life is "zoe" pronounced zo-a and means the life that God has!). Through our words we can turn the course of our life from one of being cursed to one of being blessed (James 3:2-5). However, if we have been sowing words of cursing for many years then realize the path of your life will not change in one day. Nevertheless, the change can start today by speaking words to invite the giver of life - the Lord Jesus Christ(1) - into your life (Romans 10:9-13). You can then continue the transformation by living a life of love(1) and gratitude(1) with the motive of bringing glory to God(1). Nevertheless, if we refuse the grace, mercy and compassion of God given through Jesus Christ then the only thing remaining is wrath (John 3:18-21).
(1) Left click on underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) This blog is dedicated to my father the Rev. Jim Warren that retired this year (2012) from being a church pastor at the age of 77 years. He entered the pastorate ministry at the age of 35 and has been faithfully married to my mother Faye R. Warren for 57 years, raised four children and has lived a scandal free life. Dad, thanks for the great example of being a man of God! May my life bring honor to God's name and to your name.
(3) Grace - God's freely given favor and unconditional acceptance available to all based on the completed work of Jesus Christ(1) in His death(1), burial and resurrection(1) to pay the price to set us free from sin. It is because we have this grace that makes it possible for us to receive God's mercy (Hebrews 4:16). Mercy - God's ability to make whatever is wrong - right, whatever is broken - mended; whatever is hurting - healed. That is, the mercy of God is is God Himself entering into whatever situation you are in to restore, heal, set free and make whole (Luke 4:18. Psalms 23).