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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, February 16 2023

The third commandment

"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" (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11).

by Don Hooser

Some Bibles translate this verse as do not “misuse” God’s name. There are many ways we can and should use God’s name, but there are also ways people misuse His name. This is backed up in the third chapter of James which speaks about the power of the tongue for both good and evil.

When God’s “name” is referred to in this commandment it primarily represents His identity, office, reputation, authority, personality and character. “In vain” refers to any worthless or disrespectful way that misrepresents God. The word for “take” can be more clearly translated as “carry, hold or bear” the name, therefore God is warning we must not misrepresent Him by what we say or do. The more knowledge of the Bible a person has, the more accountable he or she is (Luke 12:47-48; James 4:17) to represent God accurately.

Some insist the names of God and Jesus Christ should only be expressed in the Hebrew language, but God does not prefer one language over another. God wants each of us to love and worship Him with understanding and sincerity—with all our mind and heart—and that is best accomplished in our own language. It’s a wonderful blessing that the Bible is being translated into more and more languages.

God has many names and titles because He has many attributes, and fulfills many sacred roles. Disrespect of any of God’s names is disrespect of God. We should do all we can to glorify God’s name and reputation. If a professing Christian’s conduct does not reflect the holy character of God, he or she is hurting God’s reputation and giving Him “a bad name”. Often people have justified their actions by claiming they were acting on God’s behalf, when their actions include: persecution, murders, tortures and even slavery, etc.

A false representation of Christanity does great harm because it gives a false impression of the Bible. Jesus’ warned: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I [Jesus] am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5). Jesus was specifically warning about the deception of counterfeit Christianity and unbiblical teachings ( 2 Corinthians 11:3, 13-15). We need to take care that the way we worship God and our daily conduct reflect biblical instruction and not humanly devised customs and traditions.

When Jesus taught His disciples the most important subjects to include in our daily prayers, He said to pray for God’s name to be hallowed (Matthew 6:9). God’s name should never be uttered as cursing, slang, expletive, exclamation, jargon or thoughtless filler words. Following are some ways in which God’s name is commonly misused:

Connecting “God” with the word “damn” (or using a euphemism such as “dad-gummit”). This and saying “go to hell” literally means one is asking God to condemn someone to hell, with most people thinking “hell” is a place of eternal torture. Just saying “damn” can imply the same thing. And “darn” and “dang” are euphemisms for damn.

Using the names of God and Jesus Christ as exclamations, expletives and interjections. It’s commonplace to hear people say “oh, my God!” or to say or write “OMG.” Unless said as part of a prayer, it’s wrong to say “oh, my Lord!” or “oh, Jesus!” or “for God’s sake!” or “for Christ’s sake!”

We should also avoid euphemisms for God and Jesus Christ such as “gosh”, “golly”, ‘gad”, “jeez” and “gee”. It’s also best to avoid words that are closely connected with God—such as “heaven”, “holy” and “goodness”—when they are uttered as flippant expressions. This would include phrases such as “for heaven’s sake!” and “Holy cow!” and “goodness gracious!” and “for goodness sakes!”

God expects us to abstain from vulgar cuss words, “coarse jesting” (dirty jokes) and “filthy language” (Ephesians 4:29; 5:3-4; Colossians 3:8), and we are prohibited from using religious titles that only belong to God, including “Father” (Matthew 23:8-10). Only God deserves to be called Revered or “Reverend” (Psalms 111:9, King James Version). Even uttering “vain repetitions”, such as babbling God’s name over and over in prayers and preaching—is displeasing to God (Matthew 6:7).

Regarding swearing (uttering an oath), the New Testament makes it clear that we are to never swear (Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12). In a court of law, we can say, “I affirm to tell the truth.”

Good relationships are built on respect, and God deserves and requires our absolute respect and ardent reverence. We are called to carry His name and reflect His character with every thought, word and action.