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


Ah-Ah-AHHH-CHOOO!! … “God bless you”

More on that later.

My kids are learning a lot about appropriate word choice.  True confession: I’m a serious gamer (picture the intensity of an adolescent boy).  When we’re playing family Wii, I have to carefully watch my mouth; otherwise, words can sort of POP right on out.  Hence, we have some gaming rules.  The only word in frustration we are allowed to say is: “Snap-a-doo!”.  And we use it liberally.

Then you have my 3 yr old, who loves the movie Goonies, and each time he brings me the DVD, he says, “we are not allowed to say, ‘Oh Sh*t’, mom.”  Well, yes, Sawyer, you’re right, we certainly don’t say that….I’m working on it.

Words matter.

That’s why this commandment has always sort of terrified me.  Especially when combined with Christ’s warning in Matthew 12:31-23, we have a strong case of “WE’RE IN TROUBLE”:

“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will NOT be forgiven men.  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will NOT be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” 

For a long time I didn’t understand this, and I think many others are in the same boat.

In Hebrew, the word “Vain” translates to:

  • Blaspheme
  • Misuse
  • Destroy
  • Falsehood
  • Worthless

Mostly, we believe this commandment is simply about swearing in conjunction with God’s name.  What’s perhaps even more alarming, is how often those words have absolutely nothing to do with how we feel about God – It’s more about the toe we just stubbed.  We’re flippant and it’s out of control.  It surely breaks God’s heart and blackens our own.

But how about when we instinctually say things like “God Bless You” every time someone sneezes.  Is that really better?  Isn’t it just another empty use of a colloquial phrase that evokes the name of a God in an unconnected and meaningless fashion?

Yet, I don’t believe these things alone are the true heart of this commandment.

Technically speaking, we don’t know God’s name.  It’s unpronounceable to us.  In Exodus 3:14 Moses asked God what his people should call him, because they wanted to call him something.  And God said, have them call me “I AM WHO I AM”.  In Hebrew “I Am” is  written with the letters: “yod, he, vav, he” OR “YHWH”.  And that’s how we came to form the name “Yahweh”.  We need vowels to enunciate a word.

God’s name is so sacred, we aren’t even able of utter the word.  This command must be about much more than a name.

The context of Matthew 12 (the “unforgivable” sin) is between Jesus and the Pharisees.  Having just cast a demon out of a very sick, blind and mute man, Jesus stirs the crowd to wonder if this healer could actually be the Son of David.  Under their breath, though, the Pharisees muttered, “this is totally Satan – the ruler of demons, casting out demons.”

So Jesus (who is my kind of guy) begins to explain the insanity of their own argument.  Why would the ruler of a kingdom (Satan’s) tear down his own kingdom (by casting out demons)?  No man stands against himself.

And there’s No. Middle. Ground.

Having just witnessed the Son of God perform such a miracle, the Pharisees remain hardened to the point of calling Him Satan.  These men had made their choice.  And it was not going to be Jesus.  They’d rejected the Spirit – time and time again.  And those hardened hearts are what created an unforgivable situation.  God can’t forgive some who hasn’t first submitted to Him.

The question we’ve got to ask ourselves is “Whose team are we on?”.  If it’s the Father’s, your job – everyday, all the time, in word and in deed – is to bring Him honor.  We represent Him.  We communicate who He is to those who are searching.

His name is even our banner!: CHRISTian.

We have got to watch our words, and not just when it comes to things like swearing – either in jest or in anger.  If we say, “God told me” we’d better be sure He did.   If we pray “In the name of Jesus” we’d better understand why.  If we call ourselves “Christians” we’d better truly be His.

The honor of knowing our Father in such an intimate way doesn’t make Him smaller or us bigger.  “In Him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:28.  If we so please, we can “do life” in every way with our Creator because, through grace, He’s given us this gift of direct access to Him.  But we must never confuse that access with the great HONOR He is nonetheless due.

A friend and KING.  

I’m teaching our children the Lord’s Prayer, and I love hearing their small voices say “Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name“.  But I now have a deep desire that we begin to understand together that this God we get to call “Our Father” is “Hallowed” and “His is the KINGDOM and the POWER and the GLORY forever”….AND He STILL grabs us tight with His open arms.  How could we ever empty or misrepresent the value in that?