“Oh My G–!” and the Third Commandment

Prior to being born again in the year 2000, I had a long list of sins in my unholy repertoire. Thanks only to God and though I did many things wrong, one of the things I never had any interest in was gambling. In the same way, only because of the Lord and since becoming a bonafide Christian- as opposed to a churchgoer who still hasn’t surrendered his life to his Master and Savior- one of the things that I don’t struggle with is the third commandment, taking the Lord’s name in vain. It is because of this grace that God has put this particular commandment on my heart and to speak of it seriously but, hopefully, lovingly to others.
Some years ago, in fact, the Father put a deep burden in my spirit for His name. It pierces my soul when I hear people misuse it. For several years now I have noticed its casual and ever-increasing abuse. Sometimes I am in a circumstance or a setting where I can kindly, gently and lovingly admonish or even rebuke someone for doing so. I have received some responses that were humble and the people glad to be made aware of it, some who disagreed with my assertion and some who were outright loud and mean. I do this because I love my God and Savior and because He has instructed me to do so. Would I stand idly and mutely by if someone were to denigrate and speak badly about my wife? No. All the more reason to speak up for my Father in Heaven! In addition, the principle is the same as when Jesus says, “So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge before My Father who is in Heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
If you read either Exodus 20:7 or Deuteronomy 5:11 which lists and speaks of the Ten Commandments, you will find this clear warning (which is itself a loving act), “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.” God makes a promise of reward in another commandment which says if we honor our fathers and mothers we will have long life. Here he gives us a “heads-up” that if we abuse his name, we will be held accountable. I don’t want to test that to see exactly what that would mean in my life, but I wouldn’t want to do it anyway. His warning is clear that if we misuse His holy name in any manner, there will be consequences and there will be discipline. If you take His name in vain regularly, this may be one of the reasons for the trouble you are encountering. The good news is, if this is the case, you can simply stop doing it and some things will start looking up.
Let’s take a look at the operative words which get to the heart of the matter: “in vain.” What exactly does this mean? One definition says, “to no purpose or fruitlessly.” Another says, “lacking substance or worth.” Yet another tells us “in an irreverent or disrespectful manner” and come from worldly (secular) sources- none are what some might consider Christian and perhaps, according to them, biased. There are many ways to be guilty of breaking this most sacred commandment, but the most common BY FAR is the universal “Oh My G–!” I have even noticed this in a country in South America where I lived for over two years. America is definitely a bad influence in this area and will be judged. Let’s dissect this for a moment. If you are praying to the Almighty, you might address Him by saying something like Psalm 5:2, “Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to You do I pray.” This is not in vain because it is precisely to God that King David is speaking. But people today respond with “Oh my G–!” when they are shocked, startled or surprised. This has NOTHING to do with praying to or addressing the Creator in any way.
It is difficult to really grasp the ridiculousness or the sin in doing so because so, so many people do it with no shame or apology at all. Maybe they are unaware of it, and that’s the reason for this blog. It is so common that no one gives this a second thought. You could claim ignorance before, but no longer. Take this as an example to catch your attention and to make my point clear: My name is Ken. If you and a friend were talking and neither of you knew me (or even if you did), yet something your friend did or said surprised or shocked you, would you respond by saying, “Oh, my Ken!”? Of course not. Do you now see how absurd and out of place that sounds? Your friend would think you weren’t thinking clearly. He or she would say, “Ken? Ken who? What or who are you talking about?” You’d be taking my name in vain (with no purpose, lacking any substance because it makes no sense and doesn’t belong anywhere in the conversation, is disrespectful). Well, it’s no different than taking God’s name in vain except for the huge fact that HE is holy, above all, and deserves not only respect but fear, reverence, awe and adoration!
We are sinful creatures, to put it mildly, and we had sinful natures even before we ever committed any act of wrong. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. We can’t help but do it. God is love and light and so that’s only what comes from Him. Satan is a liar and so that’s all that proceeds from him. We are sinners and so sin engulfs us. That’s why we need a Savior. Taking God’s name in vain communicates one of two things: Either we do so recklessly and with no regard towards, or fear of, the Almighty, all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful Maker of the universe and everything and everyone in it- which is astonishingly evil. Or we do it out of ignorance, which is dangerous. I’m not sure which is worse. My guess is, though, that the latter would be easier to correct. God has now made you aware of this, so you can no longer claim ignorance. And you have a choice to make. You can do nothing, continue to blaspheme Him and incur His wrath and judgment. Or you can fall to your knees and seek forgiveness. And, because of His immense love, He WILL forgive; but not repeatedly. If you have trouble in this area, ask Him for His grace and His power to stop. He will surely answer this prayer 100% of the time.
While it may or may not offend anyone you know, work with or love, the motive for stopping should be solely for God alone. King David in Psalm 51 acknowledges his sin before the Lord and even goes so far as to admit that he sinned “against You (God), You only…and done what is evil in Your sight.” The reason for this is because, even though we have committed an unwelcomed act or spoken a harsh word to a person, it is God alone who is Judge and Lawgiver. Maybe now the full weight of the sin of taking God’s name in vain will arrest your soul. God is RICH in mercy and slow to anger. Praise His holy name and compassionate character, because He is also a consuming fire. May His Spirit speak to you.