Something that has become predominantly popular in movies as of recent is using the Lord’s name to replace a 4-letter word. Jesus Christ, can we stop?!
This supposed breaking of the Third Commandment (Exod 20) is something that Christians have been trying to counteract for years. Instead of “OMG,” Christians replaced it with “OMGosh” – an act almost as highly offensive as making certain “Christian bands” comparisons to “secular bands.”
But how did the Hebrew people hearing the Ten Commandments for the first time receive this instruction that they shouldn’t use the Lord’s name in vain? First of all, in the Hebrew I feel like almost every word is a four letter word. So, if you are replacing a four letter word with God’s name, I feel as though the ancient language would cease to exist entirely. I think Christians are really hindering the meaning of the text if they think that this Commandment only refers to substituting God’s name for a synonym of poop. I think of the popular YouTube video from sketch comedy group “Harvard Sailing Team” where one of the actor’s cats, named “Poops”, dies: “Poops is with God now… and I am sure God takes Poops EVERYWHERE!”
So what does this Commandment mean then? What does it mean to use the Lord’s name in vain?
In simplest terms, it means not to misrepresent God.
There have been times in my life where people have “prophesied” over me or my family or a situation “in the name of the Lord.” If some one is speaking as though their words are the words of God, they are “using the name of the Lord.” And if they are speaking as though they are the Ultimate Power of Authority in the universe, they better get right what that Being is trying to say. If someone speaks wrongly as though they have the authority of God, then they are using the Lord’s name in vain.
I know what you’re thinking: “This makes me a lot more scared than when I just thought it was telling me not to replace a crass word for fornication with the name of God.” If it was that easy, then all we would have to do is say, “Geez” instead of “Jesus” and “Gosh” instead of “God.” But it isn’t that easy. We need to be careful whenever we translate or apply a biblical passage, because we might be using the Lord’s name in vain. We need to be careful when we give people counsel, because we as Christians are speaking for the Heart of God.
When we wrongly judge others, we are using the Lord’s name in vain. When we say that certain actions that aren’t acceptable really are, we are using the Lord’s name in vain. When we condescendingly rebuke another Christian’s theology when it is truly ours that needs checked, we are using the Lord’s name in vain.
Strive to be a good representation of God. Don’t speak with authority that hasn’t been given to you. Use discernment. Seek more to learn the truth, so that you can take in everything through the filter of God’s Word. And lastly, remember that if I am wrong, then I have just used the Lord’s name in vain.
What else can you do to help you not use the Lord’s name in vain?