Third commandment

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From “How to become a Christian”: Chapter 7 – The Ten Commandments – proof that you and I are sinners, not just other people

Do you misuse (or take in vain) the name of the Lord?

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name

Deuteronomy 5:11 (NIV)

In the King James Bible this commandment reads slightly differently saying “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…”  It mainly relates to disrespecting or abusing God’s name by what we say. It also means living in any way that brings Him and His name into reproach or dishonour.  That is a sobering thought, because many more of us are guilty of that than of directly insulting God’s name in our speech.

There are many ways in which we can break this third commandment.  It is common to hear people openly using God’s name as a swear word and to say the most blasphemous things.  Blasphemy means disrespecting God or His name or to mock Him in any way.  How many times have you said or heard people say “Christ!” as a way of expressing surprise or concern?  Equally people say “God!” or “Oh my God!” or “OMG“. 

The one that grieves me the most is when people exclaim “Jesus Christ!”  Yet, consider what it means.  It is taking God’s precious and Holy name and using it as an expletive to express surprise or anger.  That is profoundly disrespectful and there will be a consequence for all who do it:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Galatians 6:7 (NIV)

If you cannot see why this matters so much, imagine your work colleagues deciding that from now on, when they wish to swear or express abuse, they will use the names of your family.  Imagine someone who has just dropped a hammer on their foot using your mother’s name as an expletive, or even your own name.  How would you feel?

We are also forbidden from using God’s name flippantly, or joking about Him.  It’s no coincidence that God’s name, and in particular the name of Jesus, are routinely blasphemed.  It is a deliberate Satanic strategy to undermine God’s name.  It’s almost certain that you’ve never heard anybody insulting the name of Buddha, Mohammed, Allah or any of the Hindu gods.  It’s never done, because Satan doesn’t want it done.  He therefore doesn’t cause it to be done.  He only encourages people to mock God’s name.  He leaves every false religious figure alone. 

The very fact that the attack is exclusively against the names of God and Jesus demonstrates that they are true and that the others are not.  Satan will never attack any false religion.  He wants them all to prosper and to attract people. It is solely Christianity, and especially the name of Jesus Christ, that he hates.

What the third commandment can also mean, even for believers, is to presumptuously express a view, presenting it as God’s view when it isn’t.   So if you have an opinion, then don’t use God’s name to justify your view and to make out that He agrees with you.  You must not attribute views to God which He does not hold, or misuse His glorious name as an authority for things which He has not said. 

You will be held equally accountable for every word you say about God or on His behalf.  That ought to make every church leader or preacher tremble.  We all need to be so careful what we say about God.  In the book of Job, God rebukes the three friends of Job who misrepresented God in the things they said.  They told Job, a righteous man, that his afflictions and sufferings were a punishment from God because of some sin in Job’s life.  That was not true.  You might not consider that to be the worst falsehood that you have ever heard being said about God.  However, look how seriously God takes it.  He is very angry at having His actions and motives wrongly portrayed:

It came about after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.

Job 42:7 (NASB)

Therefore, be very very careful what you say about God, or about His actions, motives or views.  Even if you mean well you could misrepresent Him, which is a very serious matter indeed. 

Lastly, taking God’s name in vain can mean that in the way we live we are a ‘poor witness’ or a poor advert for God. Our sin or hypocrisy can easily discredit God’s name. That possibility worries me.  I do not want my sin ever to bring God’s name into disrepute.

In short, we need to be very careful as to when and how we use His name at all.  It should only be spoken with great respect and reverence, never with flippancy or casualness. We need to live as ambassadors, knowing that if we claim to be a believer then we will be taken to represent Him.  If so, then we will be answerable for the impression we give, whether intentionally or unintentionally.  We should reflect on that sobering responsibility.  Therefore examine yourself now as to whether you have ever broken this commandment in any of the ways described above.  Almost inevitably, the answer will be yes, and on countless occasions.

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