OMG and Taking the Name of the Lord in Vain

OMG and Taking the Name of the Lord in Vain October 23, 2009

3.jpgNightline and ABC news are doing a series on the Ten Commandments, one of which is the Third Commandment from Exodus 20:7, which reads: 

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who takes his name in vain.

The severity of the language that YHWH will not hold the person guiltless who takes the Name in vain deserves explanation. I grew up in American fundamentalism and this commandment was a biggie for us, and we were taught never to say “Oh my God!” It was held to strictly and I knew very few folks who talked like that except my “unsaved” neighbors, some of whom were unsaved because they were Catholic or Lutheran or liberal Presbyterians. So, I have to admit that language restrictions like this produce in me a sense of the overwhelming restrictions and constrictions of some forms of fundamentalism.

“But that has nothing to do with what Moses says here,” so I hear my biblical conscience tell me, and I’d like to offer a few reflections on what I believe is the foundation of this command and why we need, perhaps more than ever, to re-insert the Third Commandment as a character mark of followers of Jesus.

First, the command is anchored in the utter, incomparable, and awe-inspiring holiness of God and God’s pure, impeccable love for Israel and us, God’s people. We are not to divide God into Holy things and Love things — God’s holiness is a pure love and God’s love is a pure holiness. God stands behind the Name and that God is holy love. Our generation is morally culpable for a pitiful dismissal of God’s holiness and for a diminution of God’s glorious transcendence. For this reason alone we need more attention to this command.
Second, the “Name” is “YHWH,” the sacred Name given to Moses in Exodus 3:14. That Name, however, is not a restriction — as if we can say “God” and “Lord” all we want. No, the Name itself spreads holiness over everything that touches God — names, attributes, behaviors, and redemptive designs — including creation and humans and the Church.
[Added comment: Many are emphasizing in the comments that taking the Name is not just using the word “God” or any other name for God, and I would agree. The Israelites took this term in a more restrictive sense to swearing falsely but they also expanded it … and I touched on this in the above paragraph but it needs emphasis: Anything we claim God for, anything we “blame” God for, etc., falls within the overall emphasis on our need of reverence before God. The Third Commandment is an expansive idea.]
Third, Jesus honored that Name when he taught us to pray these words daily: “May your Name [this echoes Exod 20:7, the third command] be hallowed.” He’s affirming the utter sacredness of the Third Commandment.
Fourth, let’s back up to the context: it was customary and widespread among Jews not even to use the Name (YHWH) when speaking of God but to substitute the word “Lord” every time one saw that term. Thus, one way of protecting oneself from uttering the Name of the Lord in vain was never even to pronounce it. This was the world of Jesus and the early Christians and you don’t see them using this Name and you see them speaking of the “Name” in its place. 
Fifth, it is too easy to slip this into the real of awe and sacredness and holiness and forget that Jesus cut the Ten Commandments, as did other Jews, into two kinds: Love God commands and Love Others commands. The Third Commandment, then, is a particular instance of what it means to love God.
I’ll put it this way. I love my wife and my kids (and their spouses and now little Aksel) in ways unlike my love for others, like my colleagues and friends. I would never make fun of my loved ones in public in a way that besmirched their integrity and their name and their honor.
How much so with God? If we love God, we don’t say “OMG” or anything that gets close.
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  • Peter

    Beautifully articulated; thank you.
    May I add that it can also be considered to be “taking the Name of the Lord in vain” when one ‘anoints’ their own ideas with the notion of “The Lord told me…” It is indispensable to our discipleship that, as His sheep, we hear His voice. Still, thoughtfulness is advised before we open our mouths, acknowledging the possibility that we may be merely ascribing our own (silly?) ideas to the God of Creation.

  • Jason

    Thank you for this post. I think most understand this commandment as a prohibition against swearing that includes “G/god.” Certainly that falls into this category, but I think Peter is right in including the uses of God’s names/titles in a way that is disingenuous or downright deceptive, e.g. “The Lord told me that you should give $1,000 to this ministry” or some other such “revelation.” We, too, forbid the use of phrases like “Oh my god” or anything else like it.

  • joanne

    I think it includes what you have said about taking God’s name in vain but i also think that taking God’s name in vain has other nuances.
    Sometimes we use his name to back our issue or our way or our understanding. we take his name in vain. It’s not JUST about saying it as a swear word or expression.

  • Scot McKnight

    Yes, I agree with the expansiveness of these suggestions — claiming God for our agendas is a misuse of the Name of God. I touched on that in my second point, but it deserves more emphasis than I gave it.

  • Allen

    Well said Scott,
    If God is truly the center of our lives that we love him with all our heart, mind and strength, why in the world would we even consider using his revered name so flippantly?
    Nice job.

  • Jonathan

    I think the prohibition on taking the Name in vain is a broad command, which covers anything which devalues God’s name (i.e., his reputation).
    I believe this includes:
    Literally saying the name, but not actually referring to him (“OMG”).
    Manipulating others by invoking God (“What would Jesus think if he saw you doing that?”)
    False (or shaky) claims of revelation (“The Lord told me…”)
    I think there is also a whole class of actions which “give God a bad name” which could also fall under this command. Self-righteousness and hypocrisy on the part of Christians might very well be “taking God’s name in vain”.

  • Well said and something that needed to be said. Thanks for the reminder of the holiness of God and the implications this might have in our speech. I am afraid that our speech often reflects our trivial view of God.

  • Thank you for this perspective on taking the name of the Lord in vain. Simply stating that it is a prohibition or a law that we shouldn’t break seems like a very lazy way to explain it. Looking at it within this light give it even more weight than “it’s one of the 10 commandments, so don’t do it.” It’s about love of God and not just about following a rule.

  • The problem with this whole topic is the last few words of the entire piece: “or anything close”.
    The traditional Christian solution to course language and giving lip service to the third commandment is simple word substitution: “oh my gosh”, “crap”, “dang”, “frick”, “what the heck”… back at Gordon College in the early 90’s (I have no idea if it is still the case) everyone said “oh my head” and no one knew why.
    I eventually decided the whole exercise was so absurd I just went ahead and started using course language. If no one was actually interested in addressing the real ills behind course language and the cavalier calling on of G-d, why should I pamper them and coddle their illusions? At the very least, I could shock them into remembering what it really is they’re thinking and saying. Not that this is a great idea, mind you, but there really is no value whatsoever in unthinking word substitution. It means nothing to us, and it means nothing to G-d.
    The problem with word substitution is that if you say it often enough, it means the exact same thing. If you hit your thumb with a hammer, and you’re enraged about it, do you really think G-d cares if you drop the f-bomb or if you say “frick”? If 90% of the time you actually swear, but in a rare moment of presence you manage a word substitution, that might have value. But if 99% of the time you’re unthinkingly saying the substituted word, the underlying problem (consuming rage) hasn’t been addressed at all.
    And the same is true with this “oh my gosh” business or whatever else. If you really want to know the extent to which “oh my god” has become nothing more than a cultural verbal tick in our culture, find a die hard atheist and show them something shocking. I’ll bet you 100 to 1 what the first three words out of their mouth will be. Find someone who is Jewish and show them something distasteful. Invariably, their disgust is expressed the same way it is for the rest of us “Jeeeezus”.
    At this point, these words and phrases have almost no meaning at all. There is a very popular joke about how the f-bomb can be used as essentially any part of speech in any part of a sentence. And there’s a reason for this: at this point, the word carries no meaning other than a pure, unfiltered, negative emotion.
    If we want to be disciplined people, we need to be a lot more concerned about what is coming out of our hearts, because as James taught us (and Scot laid out for us so eloquently some months ago) if we train the heart, the tongue will take care of itself.
    There is NO value in teaching yourself the discipline of word substitution for The Name or in avoiding course language if your heart is still -thinking- and -feeling- the words your tongue is replacing with something else. NONE.

  • Rodney

    I tried to reclaim OMG as a sacred expression once in a sermon(Jesus’ cry of abandonment on the cross). I didn’t call attention to my purpose; simply came to that point in the story and said, “Oh My God, why have you forsaken me?” A few listeners were offended, which only goes to show how deep such cultural convictions reside.

  • dopderbeck

    I agree, even with the hilarious comment about your neighbors. The name of God is something to be taken seriously and with awe.
    Jim (#9) — we used to say “oh my head” at Gordon in the mid-80’s as well. I always thought it was a New England thing, like “grinders,” “frappes” and “wicked.” “Oh my head, I went to Nicky’s today and had a wicked good roast beef grinda and a frappe!”

  • Joey

    I find it interesting that many of the prophets used the proper name of God, YHWH. It makes sense that so many of them were killed! To invoke the name of God is to invoke pure holiness and to use the name for anything less is dishonoring.

  • RJS

    Your last reflection here – (I’ll put it this way. I love my wife and my kids (and their spouses and now little Aksel) …) – started me thinking.
    We generally know intuitively that there is something wrong in the relationship when a man “makes fun” of his wife (or mother-in-law) or children – or when a woman “makes fun” of her husband. It happens far too often, and should always give pause. How much more should such an appropriateness govern our reference to God and our thinking about God.

  • Are you going to do a series on the ‘Ten Commandments’ now Scot?

  • Patrick Oden

    Scot, your closing comments about your wife pushed my thoughts in a different direction. Rather than name as name, for it’s own sake as a word, there’s a symbolic quality to the name. The name of God is the authority of God.
    If I’m not mistaken this symbolic quality was a reason why names were more protected in those days, and in other cultures. Having a name meant having the power that name represented, and maybe power over that name.
    To use a name in vain is to use that name in a weakened, contrary, or empty sense. We focus on the latter in our understanding of the commandment–using a name without referring to the object it symbolizes. However, maybe this is not the most important understanding.
    A weaker man might use the name of his wife in vain, for instance, to have his kids do something, or stop something. “Your mother said to come inside and eat.” He uses the wife’s authority to cover the lack of respect or authority (or his desire to be the good guy). If he begins to use his wife’s authority to claim for things she didn’t say, to pursue his own interests, he is using his wife’s name in vain. “Your mother said to go outside and play” when he wants a quiet moment to read. “Your mother said to do your homework” when he wants to watch his own television show.
    For a religious community, it seems this usage might be much more common and thus much more pressing. Was it likely that ancient Israelites spouted off the Hebrew version of “OMG” or that they might abuse their relationship with God before others and say, “God said you had to do this or that.” Using a name in vain is an abuse of the name, not merely rendering it empty, but using it in a way that is not connected with the actual intent, goals, speech, or priorities of the symbolized.
    This seems to be, maybe, the very sin that Jesus charged the Pharisees with. They kept making up their own laws and interpretation–forcing the people to jump through narrower and narrower hoops, even as they became proud of their own righteousness before the name of God. Only the name of God they used, to themselves and imposed on others, was increasingly distant from the reality of God–the reality of the name that Jesus embodied.
    Taking the name of God in vain isn’t primarily the sin of the irreligious. It’s the sin of the religious–who do not love God in their attempts to use God for their own purposes–whether for pride or power or false devotion. It is the sin of the false prophet–who proclaims “God says…” while God doesn’t say any such thing.

  • Great post. This is perhaps my favorite topic to think about, write about, and discuss with friends. (In fact, I’d like to write my next book about it…if Zondervan will let me!) The implications are profound and convicting, and definitely go far beyond a simple rule about what not to say when you stub your toe or learn surprising news.
    I find it fascinating how we invoke God’s name in the context of everything from political positions, to power plays, to war, to breakups, to career moves, to personal “callings,” to new cars, to natural disasters, to windfalls, to football. For years, I really struggled with doubts about my faith because I felt as though God was little more than a reflection of our own desires, that He was just an abstract concept we use to justify decisions we already intended to make. As Susan B. Anthony put it, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”
    So, in addition to refraining from OMG, I try to avoid “playing the God card” by telling people that God wants me to make this or that decision, or that he is on my side when it comes to politics or theology, or that he is the cause of natural disasters or a sunny wedding days. This has caused some folks to criticize me for not being more “spiritual,” (which really bugged me for a while because I’m just as insecure and needy as everyone else), but over time I’ve found that people eventually respect the fact that my “yes is yes” and my “no is no.”
    Some (strangely assorted) books that have made an impact on how I use God’s name: “Decision Making and the Will of God” by Gary Friesen, “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd, “How (Not) To Speak of God” by Peter Rollins, and “Satan and the Problem of Evil” by Greg Boyd.

  • Patrick, I really like you analogy about the man using his wife’s name. “Taking the name of God in vain isn’t primarily the sin of the irreligious. It’s the sin of the religious…” – Right on!
    I think that our careless use of God’s name usually boils down to insecurity. For example, I’m afraid that if I discuss my desire to move to another city with friends and family, some of those friends and family will offer critiques that I don’t want to hear…so I tell them that God wants me to move to a new city so they can’t disagree with me or offer their advice. Or let’s say I’m a powerful king who wants to expand my kingdom. I’m not sure I can garner support for a war against neighboring kingdoms unless I tell my people that God has ordered it. Or let’s say I am troubled by an earthquake or a tsunami that has resulted in many deaths. It’s easier to cite God’s inscrutable ways than it is to confront all the doubts and fears bouncing around the corners of my brain.
    Treating God’s name with the respect it deserves leaves us more vulnerable and exposed, and it opens us up to the input of other people. Perhaps tackling the problem begins with tackling our own insecurities.

  • Ben S

    “If we love God, we don’t say ‘OMG’ or anything that gets close.”
    Really, Scot? That’s a pretty sweeping statement there. But what I see in your piece above is just a whole lot of presumption.
    Personally, I have reservations about writing “YHWH” or attempting to pronounce it (“Yahweh”). I prefer to use “the Name” (or “Ha-shem” if I’m feeling pretentious). But generic terms like “god” and “lord” are far removed from God’s Name.
    “Oh my god” and equivalent phrases are cultural artifacts; they lack any real content. Saying “Oh my god” would never be interpreted in modern America to be directly invoking a deity. It’s just an expression. If you’re willing to condemn people for using such phrases, which do not even contain the Name of God (or even a reference to the Name of God), then I think you’re taking your personal interpretations a little too far.

  • RJS

    Ben S,
    After all … a man can make fun of wives in general, but is only disrespectful of his wife if he uses her name specifically.
    Such a phrase as “Oh my god” can be used in our society at large without reference to a deity – but can such an expression really be used by a Christian without invoking the image of the deity? If it can – should it?

  • Scot McKnight

    Ben S,
    Let me pushback, if it is that, by asking a question:
    Are you saying that the commandment only means “do not pronounce YHWH”?
    (The Bible clearly writes YHWH thousands of times. When it was re-vocalized so that “Adonai” is not entirely clear in the historical development.)
    If that is the point you are making, and if not then my points below are not needed, then the command should be rewritten to “Do not pronounce my Name.” Since that is not the command, and since “use vainly” is the major focus, then I think the point is larger than not pronouncing the Name.
    The point is not to speak the Name irreverently or without meaning, which is precisely what “OMG” is and your point about it being a cultural expression seems to me to illustrate precisely that point.
    Well, I could be chasing a red herring, but such as it is these are my thoughts.

  • Ben S

    The point is larger than “not pronouncing the Name,” but the focus is still on “the Name.” Not El or Elohim or “lord,” but the Name. You can make an argument that “Oh my god” is disrespectful, but it would be a matter of personal conscience, not a direct application of the Third Commandment. “Oh my god” may not have meaning, but it doesn’t include the Name — it’s generic.
    Yes, it can. And why shouldn’t it? Overgeneralizing the application of the Third Commandment dilutes its meaning. The commandment is not “Do not use in vain any word that could ever possibly be connected in any form or fashion to me and my name — and that includes ‘Oh my gosh’ because I know you’re really thinking ‘Oh my god’ as you say it.” The commandment refers specifically to the Name. We can draw from this a general principle of speaking of God with reverence, which is good, but it’s an inference, not something drawn from the text, and therefore subjective.
    The only objective information we can draw from the text is to treat the Name with reverence. The Name is significantly different from “God” because YHWH is his personal, unique name, while “God” is a generic term. The focus I see in the text in on the Name, and anything else drawn from the text can be useful but must be subject to individual conscience.

  • Scott Lyons

    Your post brings the conversation of language itself to the table – the command does not say that your language should never be empty, but rather that we must treat God’s name as holy because it is holy – treat it as it is. But what are expressions like “Oh my gosh” (or, further, words like “crap,” “dang” or even some cuss words themselves) really doing? What do they actually mean? They express emotion – and, in most cases, nothing more – surprise, regret, pain, distress and anger. (And while the anger is an issue, I’m not sure the others are.) So when I say “O my gosh!” I’m not consciously or unconsciously emptying the name of God of anything – I’m expressing surprise. That’s part of my little milieu. And while “gosh” is sometimes used as a euphemism, I don’t use is it as one or think of it as one. In other words, I’m not cleaning up my language for the Sunday School, consciously switching out “God” in favor of “gosh.” It seems to me that some people would argue for no utterances being used when expressing emotion (so that we don’t even allow for such nonsense expressions as, O my head! Good Night! etc.) Which brings up my last point, and which you touched upon at the beginning of your post but did not flesh out – just because another says “O my God!” gives us no grounds for judgment. For most, the phrase is an expression of surprise and nothing more. Do they need to re-evaluate the precise language they use – maybe so, but let’s leave that to the holy Spirit. I cannot say it, so I don’t. End of the issue. But if I begin cringing and judging when I hear someone else say “O my God!” I have my very own sin that needs addressing.

  • Dana Ames

    “Taking the name of God in vain isn’t primarily the sin of the irreligious. It’s the sin of the religious–who do not love God in their attempts to use God for their own purposes–whether for pride or power or false devotion. It is the sin of the false prophet–who proclaims “God says…” while God doesn’t say any such thing.”
    I was reading on another blog lately, can’t remember which one, that an investigation into the culture and context of the commandment led the other blog writer to essentially the above quoted conclusion: that this commandment is about misrepresenting who -and what kind of god- God is. Misrepresentation certainly might be done in the way of the false prophet, for one’s own purposes or agenda. It also might be done in the utmost sincerity and with the best of intentions to do what God wants, proclaiming something about who God is as true, when it really isn’t. This angle makes much better sense to me.
    And this is so much more serious a problem than saying OMG, with much more serious ramifications.
    I would not want to be disrespectful toward the Lord. I don’t say OMG very much, but I do say it, and “Good God!” when I’m nonplussed. I have not vocalized “YHWH” very much and now avoid doing so entirely out of a deeper respect, and I hope, humility, than I used to have… (“Look at me, I’m smart, I know how the word is pronounced in academia…”) And I think the issue of respect goes much wider and broader and deeper than what or how we vocalize the word.
    It’s about doing a dot-to-dot page without the numbers.

  • Your Name

    Jim Marks,
    What you wrote in #9 was absolutely beautiful, and expresses what I’ve pretty much kept in my head for years, unable to articulate it in the manner in which you just did.
    If you don’t mind, I’m going to copy and paste it into a Word document (read: “borrow”) and save it for a rainy day. You will, of course, always receive full credit for your words. =)

  • Samb

    I kept thinking of “he who must not be named”.

  • AHH

    I think I hear some people suggesting that it would be a violation of this Commandment to invoke/blame God as the reason why lightning struck a particular church at a particular time.
    Say in Minneapolis earlier this year, just as an example (and yes, I know Piper backed away from some of the implications of how he first stated things).

  • Great post! Another term I often hear (even from pastors) is “fortunately or unfortunately”. I don’t think someone who believes the Jesus Creed would be using those terms.
    Merriam-Webster defines “fortune” – a hypothetical force or personified power that unpredictably determines events and issues favorably or unfavorably.
    Again, great post, Thanks……………

  • Question:
    If the israelites said the word ‘Lord’ during conversation, instead of speaking His name then why is it wrong to say ‘OMG’? God just like Lord is a title. Just like ‘Father’ ‘Son’ & ‘Holy Spirit’ are titles.
    Just a thought. really like the indepthness of the post.

  • This was a good post, and I’m glad I read it. I’m new to this site, so I’ll admit that I was worried at first that you were about to take the side of Nightline, and say that those who object to the use of “OMG” are getting upset about nothing. It really isn’t a nothing issue, and you explained it well.
    In the past, I’ve explained my objection by basically saying that I think God is too holy to use His name as a cheap synonym for “I’m surprised,” or “that’s bad news.” In materialists’ terms, it is worse than using a rare Ming Dynasty vase as a motor oil pan, and that’s putting it lightly. The problem is the casual attitude that devalues God and makes Him into an object to be used and shaped at human will or whim. If His name means nothing, than He must mean nothing to you; if you don’t care about His objections, then you must not respect His power.
    Again, good post. Keep up the good work!

  • Barry

    I must say that I think #9 Jim Marks and #15 Patrick Oden are right on. The vanity of using the Name as a misuse of power and as symptomatic of much deeper “heart” issues covers a lot of ground when taking the Third Commandment into account.
    I’m also not convinced that we should build hedges around our language to as not to break the commandment and this is what Scot’s last line seems to suggest.
    “If we love God, we don’t say ‘OMG’ or anything that gets close.”
    When we build hedges like this, are we focusing more on the Letter of the rule than the Spirit of the rule?

  • Irene

    I appreciate your love of “Our Lord”in your post,as i too am in awe of him. However, you must understand that words such as,God,Jesus Christ and the lovely likenesses,are merely writ on water and are expressive only in their deepest context of our urgencies at the times of its use. I would hold it as a given tribute,a homage to our father in remembrance of him…

  • Mayme

    I thought OMG could be used to mean Oh My Gosh.

  • Bobby Key

    I appreciate what you are saying , and yes today’s children & teenagers
    & young adults do not have a grasp of the English language ..but it has been mostly influenced by the slackness of most, immigrants, & laziness to learn the language..(they like to shorten phrases which come up meaningless to an educated person) plus God’s name is Jehovah …do you really think Jehovah pays any mind except for the person trying to say his name in vain .( He knows all hearts)…the name God has been miss-used for 1000’s of years…eg…Zeus ….even Satan thinks he is a god ..and we (Christians) are considered sons of God ….but think about it…I cringe at the sound to hear God’s name in vain ..but again it’s basically just a word ..His name is Jehovah God… We just weren’t taught that …

  • Glen

    The name of God, is Jesus.
    One of the reason they didn’t say it in the Old Testement was because it was not yet revealed to them; god had not yet been manifested in the flesh.
    The New Testement say, ‘God was manifested in the flesh.’ The great God of the universe was made seeable; He was robed in flesh; the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; Jesus is the image of The invisible God; when you see me you see The Father. Read Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born….and His name shall be called…..The Mightly God, The everlasting Father….” Proverbs 30:4 “…what is His name, and what is His son’s name, if thou canst tell.?” John 10:30 “I an my father are one.”
    BUT, I do not like to here “OMG” at all unless it is in a prayer or praise context.

  • Your Name

    i have being saying OMG for all my life, but, i did not know if i say that that’s mean i take the name of my mighty God in vain…. I know all of the ten commendements, and the tirth one tells us not to take the name of our precious God in vain. from now on I’ll ask the holy spirit to help me find something else to replace “OMG” in my everyday life unless in a special conversation with Him.

  • Milande E.

    i have being saying OMG for all my life, but, i did not know if i say that that’s mean i take the name of my mighty God in vain…. I know all of the ten commendements, and the tirth one tells us not to take the name of our precious God in vain. from now on I’ll ask the holy spirit to help me find something else to replace “OMG” in my everyday life unless in a special conversation with Him.

  • Your Name

    I am so thankful you took on the task of informing those that did not
    know any better. The real reason they don’t know is becsuse they are
    not exploring the riches of the word of God so contained in the Bible,
    which should be the #1 best seller of all times. When I came into the knowledge of this through studying of the Bible, I shared it with
    others and the Holy Spirit revealed to them what I shared. I cringe
    when I hear people use that phrase. God is so Holy and we should
    reverence him at all times. Using his name so loosely upsets Him.
    Call Him when there is a need and not as casual everyday expression of
    dis-belief or amazement.

  • Toni P.

    Thank you all for your affirmation that His Name is to be revered. I believe, like with many things, it is a diabolic Satanic plot to get everyone comfortable belittling the Magnificent Name of our Lord. One to create the lie in our minds that He is not all powerful since He is just some household name or common curse-word. Second, we continue to perpetuate our guilt (roaring lion….seeking) before our Heavenly Father without even giving it a second thought. For example, I would never think to steal from anyone nor kill them, but it is very simple to just text or say OMG. I am guilty of this casual expression yet all the while needing His incredible miraculous power in my life….I am ashamed and now determined to give His Holy Name the supreme worship it deserves.

  • Your Name

    The 10 Commandments are given to guide us,and when we committed sin,God is just to forgive us from our imperfections,and that is also the blood of Jesus is always available to claim when we repent for the sins committed and i believe God is just to forgive us,because when God is love,He is always willing to forgive,and through the name of His son,we are forgiven and gives us grace to become more like Him
    for all have sinned and fall short to His glory.

  • Darissa

    I’m a bit confused….it seemed you were going to explain that the ten commandments were put in place to keep us from sin until the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts after we accepted Jesus Christ did that for us. Now everyone is repenting for the sin of profaning the name of God. Although I appreciate your point I find that this world is hard enough to live in without Christians putting laws on themselves and unbelievers. I have used the term OMG merely as an expression of sadness usually in response to some bad news. I have been corrected recently by my somewhat legalistic sibling so I have replaced it with OH MY GOSH…Bottom line is…God knows our hearts and he continues to love me, forgive me and take an active role in my life daily so I am not going to beat my self up if I slip with an occasional OMG. It is not said in disrespect and My Father knows that. We all should “work out our own salvation with fear & trembling” knowing it is God that will hold us accountable…Lets try to live in peace with all men as much as is possible.

  • Your Name

    Hi Darissa: God Bless you, and He is blessing you. The ten commandments are laws to guide us away from and to identify sin. Breaking these laws lead to many things that make our lives harder whether we live as Christians or non Christians. WE all know someone whose life has been torn apart by adultery leading to divorce. I use that as an example. Many Christians fall into this sin. No one keept these laws perfectly, hence our savior Jesus. But we should all try. The Holy Spirit is a incredible gift, poured into our heart and will guide, cousel us and convict us however, God made us with free will and we still can choose to break his commands, regardless of our salvation, regardless of the direction we recieve. God does know our hearts, and loves you beyond compare. Trust me, we all have areas of our lives to clean up. I applaud you for turning from this and changing your behavior…repentence. Keep seeking his WORD, the Holy Spirit will guide you and remember, Chrisians arn’t perfect people, even tho some of us try to act like we are. We are all broken, fall short yet loved by God so very much. Finally Jesus summed it up like this. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as your self. To say OMG as a prayer in sadness or gladness is not to profane His name…but to throw around OMG is. I hope you can see the difference. To love someone meant to try not to hurt or disrespect them…taking Gods name in vain does both. It also shows people around you an example you are not wanting to set. And just so you know. I have been guilty of breaking all Gods laws, not proud of it, have repented from it and changing my ways daily, but I am another Christian in need of a Saviour…I Thank and Praise him for loving us anyway. Have a very Blessed Day darling, you are on the right path.

  • Debbie

    I believe that Jesus said come as you are,Don’t you think God is able to change us into his image without ours or anyones help. He said to come as we are, dirt and all,Oh my God, and other phrases, yes, the holy spirit is offended but God also knows the peoples hearts and when they do recieve the Holy Spirit and are seeking God, He will change them naturally. I myself believe that when God said Do not take my name in Vain, I believe it had nothing to do with saying God’s name. I believe that as he changes us we just stop that kind of talk and others as our hearts become more like his. God says not to take his name “IN VAIN” in vain means To no avail; without success: Our labor was in vain. I believe that God was saying, don’t make the fact that I gave my son to die on the cross for you pointless. Dont take it for granted, Dont just accept his name as a free pass to heaven,take his name and be fruitfull,do what he would do,love people,forgive people,don’t judge people,see them,not there sin,love them,hate THE sin,accept them, and LET God change them. Show them the love of God, and leave the changing to the Master, the one who knows there hearts, the one who can change there hearts. Jesus said to love our neighbor as we love ourself. And if you take that as it says, very simply, do we really love ourself??? I am going to say about 95% probebly more of us really dont love ourself as a whole person. I believe we need to be seeking God more and more, and he will change us to be more like him and as he does, we will look at ourself and realize we love who we are,and then we will just love our neighbors and we wont be bothered by the pety things that go on, we wont judge the man or woman down the street who took another life, we will recognize the need the person has for Jesus and we will begin to pray for an incounter with God for them. If we spent as much time praying for the people that we do Judging them, this world would be a different place. We have a gift that God gave us when he gave us his Son. With that we have power to bind the enemy and pray for the sick, and the lost, We have a responsibility as a child of God. If I hired you to be the “Manager” of my corporation. You have a responsibility and a power with that NAME. Do not take the Name of the Lord in vain.

  • anita

    hi! isnt this a good day that the LORD has made?
    i just wanted to say that our FATHER did not
    asked for much,HE only gave us TEN RULES that he wants us
    to live by.and from our hearts and out of compation and
    LOVE for him we are to GLORIFY his name every chance
    we have. it takes more energy to use HIS name wrong than it does
    to use HIS name right!!!!i saw a bilboard in my town that
    i thought that said it all.thank for letting me comment
    i thought what you said was great.

  • ray thomas

    do not find faults is also a commandment

  • TKM

    I really do not like those billboards. They are exactly what this article is about. They may have a good message, but putting words into God’s mouth is certainly using His name in vain. If they were directly quoting the Bible, it would be appropriate to have His signature on the bottom. Anyway, there is my rant!

  • Chris

    Let’s not go law postal here! When I say Oh My God! I mean it. I don’t use it flippantly……..I am talking to Him. He is in my moment by moment, in fact IS my life. Sometimes a near miss on the highway brings those words to my lips. I am not swearing, or taking His name in vain. I am calling out to my God……..As His child, I have every right as I stand in Christ Jesus my lord and life….who has restored my relationship with Father God…I have access to Him….direct access…….and in moments of stress, I call out to Him.
    I agree that His name should not be used as a swear word, or in a joking manner. That is disrespectful…..those who use His name that way, do not KNOW Him…..whether they are saved or not saved. For if you truly know Him….you could not…
    Thanks for your article! Careful whose words you judge………cj

  • Chris

    Let’s not go law postal here! When I say Oh My God! I mean it. I don’t use it flippantly……..I am talking to Him. He is in my moment by moment, in fact IS my life. Sometimes a near miss on the highway brings those words to my lips. I am not swearing, or taking His name in vain. I am calling out to my God……..As His child, I have every right as I stand in Christ Jesus my lord and life….who has restored my relationship with Father God…I have access to Him….direct access…….and in moments of stress, I call out to Him.
    I agree that His name should not be used as a swear word, or in a joking manner. That is disrespectful…..those who use His name that way, do not KNOW Him…..whether they are saved or not saved. For if you truly know Him….you could not…
    Thanks for your article! Careful whose words you judge………cj

  • Lillian

    Hi, I just wanted to agree that we shouldn’t take God’s name in vain; however the unsaved do not seem to understand this yet. I believe God sees this and we need to continually pray for their salvation and God will change them to His likeness. “God rains upon the unjust as well as the just.” or I wouldn’t have been able to get saved, I thank God for HIs great mercy and grace. I shudder when i hear my loved ones or hear about them saying things about God that shouldn’t be said and I get angry too; however i think again about the above scripture. I pray for them too that conviction will fall on them as it did and does on me.

  • Felicity

    Thank You for taking time to assist us in food for thought matters.
    I agree with you, And the way it was in the days when Jesus walked the earth, You did-not then, and should-not now,”Say the word God”.
    Our Father’s name is by far to precious for any earthly being to repeat it, The very best we can do, we are still filthy. Lets get on with taking care of Father’s bidding.

  • Gwen Miller

    This is so true and for years I have felt that people have been using God’s name in vain. Even myself have said OMG when witinessing a horrible or tragic event. I am going to try and reverse this type of thinking. Thank you for the teaching.

  • Sophie Pawelski

    By daring to say that Catholics, Lutheran, and liberal Presbyterians will not be saved you are putting yourself in the place of God, because you are judging who will be saved and only God has the power to do this; so you are taking the Lord’s name in vain by putting yourself in His place. Judge not, lest ye be judged, so says the Holy Bible.

  • Your Name

    How much so with God? If we love God, we don’t say “OMG” or anything that gets close. Scot Mcknight
    I commented earlier on this article and recieved kind responses, thank you. I am writing again to let you know why I reacted to this final statement you made. I am asking for a retraction or explanation as to how you know my heart and can so casually judge it.
    I know that your intention is to honor our Father, Jesus & the Holy Spirit. I’m sure you have helped many in their quest to walk closer to God. This is how our Lord Himself responded to the 10 Commandments. Should we do any less than Him? JHN 8:4-11… They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with [his] finger wrote on the ground, [as though he heard them not]. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And they which heard [it], being convicted by [their own] conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, [even] unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
    She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more…..The power of Life & Death are in the tongue. Jesus was the WORD OF LIFE. 1TIM 1:8…
    But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,
    1Ti 1:9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, Mr. Mcknight you have put yourself in a position to do good please prayerfully consider your words…In Christ, Darlene

  • g

    As one who struggles with faith and believing that the Bible is really THE WORD of GOD I find myself in some situations whereby I do take the Lord’s name in vain. But I mean it is usually Jesus’ Name which I hate doing and really struggle to not let it ‘slip’ in some reaction to some negative event.
    I am conscious of it because even though I am deeply struggling with faith as Orthodox Christainity teaches it, I have had enough backround and learning that it is very uncomfortable for me to use Jesus’ name in vain.
    As far as using ‘god’ in an oath, I don’t believe that ‘god; is a name but a generic term that is used for a supreme being by nearly every religion on earth.
    I slip and use ‘god’ in an oath but again feel uncomfortable with it because I guess some how deep inside I believe that ‘god’ takes on the meaning of the creator that you believe in and for me, though deeply questioning faith and the Bible at this point in my life, I am clinging to the hope that somehow it is true and that I can find a way back to really believe it.
    Bottom line, I have fallen into a habit of using god and jesus in oaths and I don’t like it, catch myself and do offer up a confession of sin, but all the while struggling with whether or not the oath and the confession is really reaching anyone on the other side.
    But I would say, oaths and using a generic term or actual name is not good, and I am trying to replace my speech with more loving and affirming speech..not easy.

  • Yahunathan ben Yahuah

    Not originally mine, but edited by me.
    YHWH says to not take His name in vain. Let’s take a moment and look at the Webster’s dictionary definition of the word “vain”:
    vain 1. Having no real substance, value, or importance; empty; void; worthless; unsatisfying. “Thy vain excuse.” … 2. Destitute of forge or efficacy; effecting no purpose; fruitless; ineffectual; as, vain toil; a vain attempt….
    Considering the meaning of the word “vain,” what greater way to bring Yahweh’s name to “emptiness…worthlessness…having no real substance, value or importance” than to remove His name altogether from the scriptures?
    This practice is so widespread and so complete that until modern times few people even knew the Heavenly Father had a personal name.
    So if we want to keep the Ten Commandments, we should never join them in replacing YHWH’s name with a false name or title of our own choosing. Doing so would be breaking the third commandment. This is not the only way to break the third commandment, but we can see that it is certainly one way of doing so.
    In fact, in most translations the third commandment (as translated) is a transgression of itself!
    Why? Because the third commandment forbids bringing His name to nothing, yet most translations do just that when translating that verse.
    His name is very important. Yahweh says that it is His name forever and His memorial to all generations, including the one we are living in. Let’s not desecrate or remove His memorial. (Ex. 3:15)
    If it wasn’t important, He would not have warned those who break the third commandment: “YHWH will not hold him guiltless.”
    Therefore, in spite of what others may think, let’s keep His commandments by restoring what YHWH placed there originally as we read and quote the scriptures. Continuing in error is never superior to walking in the truth.
    Our speech should be as the oracles of YHWH (1 Peter 4:11). Therefore, let’s primarily call Him by His name, just as the scriptures do.
    We are not supposed to add or take away from His word. But if we practice this tradition, we are both adding to and taking away from His word.
    Therefore, the “replace His name with a title” tradition is clearly unscriptural. We should not be surprised when unscriptural traditions of men find their way into modern denominational religions. Our Savior said to the mainstream teachers of his day:
    “Full well ye reject the commandment of YHWH, that ye may keep your own tradition. (Mark 7:9)
    Therefore, just as He did, let’s set aside vain traditions and fearlessly proclaim the genuine truth found in His word… just as He inspired it.