When I taught Exodus to my sixth graders, we memorized the ten commandments – every word. We didn’t just memorize the list of “shalls” and “shall nots”; oh no -I made those kiddos memorize every word of Exodus 20:1-17. And because I never asked them to do anything with Scripture that I wasn’t willing to do alongside them, I memorized it, too.
The ten commandments begin with “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” I think it’s crucial to begin with this, because when we talk about God, we need to remember who He is: He is God. He is Creator, He is Alpha, Omega, Beginning, End, He is the I Am. The first four commandments deal specifically with the Holy Creator God: don’t have other gods, don’t make idols, don’t take His name in vain, and honor the Sabbath Day as a day of worship of Him.
But it’s the third commandment I really want to focus on today: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” Often you see this verse rendered as “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain,” but I think the NIV really nails it here: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”
We left our church in July because the Lord’s name was misused from the platform. I can pretty it up, I suppose, and I can be honest and tell you there were other circumstances, but the straw that broke the camel’s back? A video clip where the Lord’s name was used as a curse word.
People today justify sin a thousand different ways. If you follow theology at all, you are aware of that, because you watch everyone from legitimate theologians to armchair bloggers claim that their newest interpretation of Scripture is now the best and most correct.
I have yet to see anyone overtly attempt to overturn the ten commandments and invalidate them.
However, every time someone claims that Scripture is wrong, she is misusing the name of God. Every time someone elevates the false concept of tolerant love above other characteristics of a Holy Creator God, she is misusing the name of God. Every time someone tells you that God wants you to dream big, claim a promise not meant for you, or tithe in order to receive a blessing, she is misusing the name of God.
Someone claiming to hear directly from God outside of the His written word? Misusing His name. Writing a book, or a study, or a blog post, or giving a talk on the premise that “God told me…” is also misusing His name.
When someone says or types, “OMG,” she is misusing the name of God (and please, don’t pretend you mean “oh my goodness” or “oh my gosh,” because, no, you don’t. This is slang for taking the Holy Creator God’s name in vain. Period.). When someone says or types, “Lawd” and thinks they are being colloquial or funny…she is misusing the name of God.
“Oh, Lord,” “Lord have mercy,” and any form of “Jesus Christ” except in worship? All misusing the name of God.
Dear sister, if you claim to be a Christian and violate this everlasting moral commandment from God Himself, He says He will not hold you guiltless. Matthew 15:18 tells us, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’.” If you are misusing the name of the Lord, in any way or for any reason, you need to examine your heart. This is not a joke; it is a serious sin.
We have an amazing privilege to speak to our Creator, but respect should pass our lips every time we utter His name. His Name is not one that should be dropped casually, or as a joke, or as a curse, or something upon which we swear. God is someone we speak to, someone we worship, someone we speak about, but only with the utmost respect and reverence.
Now, I realize that all of us are desperate at times, and we cry out to God for help, for rescue, for mercy, for any number of things that might not sound like respect. But if we are in a habit of speaking of God and to God with respect, then when those moments of tragedy and panic arise, our natural inclination – our natural voice – will still be one of respect. Think of a child you know, a respectful one. That child has been taught to speak to her parents with respect, and even when scared, hurt, or unsure, she will default her voice to a respectful tone. The same happens with the children of God.
If you are in the habit of taking the Lord’s name in vain – of misusing His name – you will not default to respect, though. When hard times come, you will default to whining, complaining, cursing, swearing, and railing at the Creator God via His Name.
I cringe when I hear people use God’s name flippantly, especially children, and even more so, especially women who claim to walk with Christ. Jesus said Christians will exhibit fruit – a filthy mouth that misuses the name of your Creator is not healthy fruit.
How do you fare with the third commandment? Are you properly using the name of God? If not I challenge you today, of all days, to begin speaking His name properly, with the respect He deserves.