Rules for life: #3

Do you abuse God’s name?

The ten commandments are more than a manual for how to live a good life. They are in fact a manual for a thriving society and civilization. As we move further and further from the commandments as real and binding in our lives, we move further from the One who loves us and gave us these commandments for our benefit.

The third commandment given to Moses is “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” We should however note that there is more to it. The Lord continues with these words “for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

In my own day to day life going from place to place and even running errands, it is amazing to me that this commandment is broken all the time. It is a sign that God is near to the lips and far from the hearts of so many people. I could almost care less when I hear someone use profanity such as the “f” word or the “s” word. While they are bad and nasty words, they are signs of an undisciplined individual. When I hear “God” and “Damn” used together or “Jesus Christ” used by someone in anger or when I hear someone swearing to God, it sounds like nails across a chalkboard to my ears. It revolts and disgusts me. If it has this effect on me as a sinful man, I can only imagine the way it sounds to the Lord. But I don’t have to imagine because He Himself tells us what it means to speak in this way, “For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Another way to put it would be “God will hold us guilty for this.”

Indeed the Lord Jesus, who observed all the commandments perfectly and helps us to understand them in even greater ways, tells us “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man” (Matthew 15:18).

The Lord makes the point that what we say is a sign of what we truly believe deep in our heart. If we use the name of God frequently, but carelessly, we do not really care about God. Imagine that instead of using the name of God or the Lord Jesus that you had to instead use the name of your own mother or mother in law. Would that constant loose or angry usage be respectful or demeaning? In St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he writes “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph 4:29). That’s another way of saying something we all heard growing up… “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.”

We are Christians, we’re the people of God. If we don’t speak of God respectfully and reverently, who do we expect will? We don’t speak about God unless we’re speaking about God! We don’t use the name of Jesus unless we’re speaking about Jesus or praying to Jesus. We are not animals, we can actually control ourselves with a little bit of effort. God expects this of us because little disciplines like learning how to use the name of God can have a big impact on our lives. We want to make it count every time we use the name of the Lord. We want to use the name of the Lord in such a way as to make it very clear that when we say His name we mean it.

God wants us to call out to Him. He is waiting to hear from us. So don’t hesitate to use His name and have it at the tip of your tongue, but don’t use it as a curse word or a slander. Don’t use it to express frustration and anger and pride. Use it to express gratitude and joy. God is not the god of the damned, He is the God of those who are blessed. Don’t take the Lord’s name as a sign of your own ugliness or brokenness, but let His name be a sign of your hope and your joy regardless of your sinfulness. What we say matters, and as Christians this commandment like the others, is a non-negotiable.

Call to the Lord as if your life depends on it, as if He is all you have in life. That’s not vain, and empty words, that’s saying something with conviction. That is putting your heart into it and God loves it when we put our heart into Him. He won’t ignore us or mock us, He will listen and respond swiftly.  Like a Father to His child.

May the name of the Lord be precious and holy in our hearts.

And Glory be to God forever AMEN.

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