“OMG” — and Other Ways Christians Take God’s Name in Vain
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
I briefly mentioned, in yesterday’s post, one way in which Christians take the Lord’s name in vain. Unfortunately, too many of us have become very casual about this commandment, and I thought I’d take the time to mention some things we should consider.
Taking God’s Name in Vain
“Vain” means useless, or empty. This verse, one of the Ten Commandments, tells us to not use God’s name in an empty or useless way. God is to be respected as high and holy. This isn’t optional.
I read an article a couple of weeks ago (unfortunately, I forgot to note who gave me the link) which I thought was excellent. I know nothing about the author, but her article (What does the Bible say about OMG?) is excellent. Too many Christians, in moments of excitement, dismay, etc., say, “Oh my God,” — and it isn’t a prayer. Others, more “refined,” say, “Oh my gosh,” which is effectively the same watered down a little bit. When we do this, we are saying God’s name without any real meaning to it — using it vainly.
Text-speak and Internet usage have made this far worse. Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter too often encourage people to speak quickly and mindlessly, and it is so very easy to type in “OMG” without even thinking about it. Is that consistent with reverence for our God? If you see a Christian doing this, perhaps you could send a private note asking him to stop. He’s probably not even thought about it.
No one ever says, “Oh my Satan,” or a watered-down “Oh my Santa.” Or, for that matter, “Oh my spaghetti” or “Oh my desk.” Why do unbelievers always use “Oh my God”? We know why — the god of this world is influencing them to use words that diminish reverence for the Almighty God. Why should Christians even mimic that with a watered-down “Oh my gosh”?
“In Jesus’ Name, Amen”
I am NOT saying people should not pray in Jesus’ name. He told us to. I wrote about this briefly yesterday (Proverbs 10:24). The point of praying in Jesus’ name is to pray as Jesus’ representative, and that means praying as He would have us pray. It is not a magic spell to make our wish list come true, or vain repetition stuck at the end of our prayers.
It is intended to cause us to think about whether we are praying for things that we can and should appropriately ask in His name. It is to remind us of the glorious privilege given to us as His servants.
“I’ll Pray For You”
If you say you are going to pray for someone, you speak as a Christian who can speak directly to God. You are promising to speak to Him. If you don’t do it when you said you would, you took God’s name in vain. You talked about communication with Him in an empty and meaningless way.
It is not wrong to tell people we will pray for them. But if we say it, we must mean it and do it. I have a friend who is careful about this. I don’t think I have ever heard him say, “I’ll pray for you.” He does say, “I just prayed for you,” or, “Let’s pray about this right now.” Something to consider….
About a week ago, News for Christians linked to Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain. It is worth reading. The writer appropriately refers to Romans 2:24:
For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.
If you are called a “Christian”, you are called a follower of Christ. You carry His name. If your behaviour gives sinners excuses to blaspheme, you are taking His name in vain. Those who bear His name must live by it.
T-Shirts, Bumper Stickers, Cute Sayings
I’m not going to get specific here, because those who want to nitpick can nitpick. Rather, a suggestion: read Isaiah 6, and see how Isaiah responded to his vision of the Almighty. Look at Revelation 1, and see John’s response when he saw the Lord of glory. Remember that even in these visions, not all of God’s glory and majesty was fully revealed, or these men would have died. And ask yourself, does my bumper sticker, my t-shirt, my cute expression that I like to use, all these ways in which I speak of the Lord, do they really fit with who He is?
When I stand before Him (or rather, when I fall on my face before Him) will I be glad I used that bumper sticker and wore that t-shirt, or will I be horribly ashamed? Am I altogether too casual and cutesy in how I speak of Him?
“God Told Me”
Many times, we hear Christians say that “God told me” to do something. Unless it is written in God’s Word, God doesn’t tell me to believe your statement (even if you do believe it). If there is no reason I should believe that God told you, there is no reason to say it. The Bible doesn’t tell us to go around saying “God told me.”
If you make a statement the Bible didn’t tell you to make, and I should examine what you say (rather than take your word for it), then to claim God’s authority is to claim it vainly. “God told me” in any context other than what the Scriptures have said is taking God’s name in vain — even if you personally believe He did tell you. God doesn’t tell others to believe you when you say it, so it is an empty claim. You shouldn’t say it.
“God Gave me Peace”
It’s amazing how many times God “gives peace” to people who are doing the exact opposite of what He said in Scripture. Just because you feel comfortable about your decision doesn’t mean God has given you peace. Perhaps all it means is that you’ve started to have better sleeping and eating habits so you physically feel better. Perhaps it means you’ve seared your conscience so badly that it isn’t functioning anymore.
God does give peace, the Scriptures say so. But the Scriptures never say we should make decisions by checking our “peace-meter” to see if it is measuring high enough. “Peace-meters” are often inaccurate — God’s Word is not. Many times, when people say “God gave me peace,” they are merely taking God’s name in vain, speaking it meaninglessly, claiming some kind of God-authority for decisions that He manifestly does not approve.
I am sure there are other ways in which we do not honour our Lord’s name as we should. We, as Christians, need to take God’s holiness seriously, and give Him due reverence. We should encourage and help one another to be alert to failings in this area, so that we can speak as He would have us speak.
Somewhat related later post: Why is “Jesus Christ” used as “Blasphemous Profanity”?
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in VAIN they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Matthew 15
He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in VAIN do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Mark 7
Here are 2 scriptures that drive home the bigger issue of, “Thou shall not take the Name of the Lord thy God in VAIN.”
Look at the context of Exodous 20. No, don’t count the commandments, but read them as one complete thought which is summed up by the 2 Greatest Commandments. “Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second, “Love your neighbor in the same way you so love yourself.”
Click here and read several verses from several places for context:
Here again in Deuteronomy 5. ” I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before me. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
So, what is my point? Yes, saying OMG is terrible. Using His Name in an un-holy manner is wrong. Yet who today sees the greater issue I am trying to point out. Countless millions of folks past present and future who name His Name as if it is theirs…Who spend countless hours doing things for Him, but never having a Holy Spirit filled relationship with Him are taking His Name in VAIN! They call themselves Christian, they do many works and some even teach doctrine, yet they have no personal relationship with Him and thus all their work, all their study, all there effort in preparing their lesson plans complete with quotes from dead theologians, are taking His Name in VAIN, for they are not His according to scripture. “But Lord! LORD!!” They will cry, “We did all these things in Your Name!”
And “Depart from Me!” they will hear, “For I never knew you.”
Theirs is the greater issue here. Why do you think teaching like the Scofield Study Bible is still so popular, or Beth Moore or you name them?
Think about this now, will we? And ask, “Is it I Lord?”
Let us each make certain we have not taken His Name…in VAIN!
Hello, Mickey. The post was about ways Christians take God’s name in vain without thinking about it, do not treat Him with appropriate reverence, and was intended to challenge Christians to think.
You are talking about another real problem but a very different one — people who aren’t Christians at all. This commandment certainly is applicable to both.
I’m not sure I’d equate the Scofield Study Bible with Beth Moore, but that’s another topic. 🙂
Mark, I’m glad you found the article useful, and hope your readers benefit by it. May the Lord guide and bless your service for Him.
LOL Jon! I guess the two show just how far and wide heresy is in the system that allows and even encourages the unsaved to fellowship there offering an assurance of salvation through church membership and the following of the traditions of men as if they are God’s doctrine.
Yes, it certainly is applicable to both.
Jerimiah addressed this topic in no uncertain terms through out the entire book. He really gets down to business in chapter 23. This is no mere trifle. Gods wrath is kindled against any and all who speak falsely in His name. The children of Israel were also commanded to deal harshly with these wicked lipped untamed tongue offenders. A very much needed exhortation.
This is very helpful and practical counsel! Thank you!
Often I find myself saying “Oh, my goodness!” I’m trying not to do this.
Hello, Maria. I broke myself of that one using Isaiah 64:6. Every time I’d say, “Oh my goodness,” I would remind myself that my goodness is as filthy rags. It didn’t take long before I stopped. 🙂
Thank you, Jon! This is the way we renew our minds, including our habits, by the Word of God.
Maria, thank you for the interchange. You motivated me to write an article on this: http://mindrenewers.com/2014/10/15/curing-oh-my-goodness/.
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