After a little break yesterday, we return to our series on the Ten Commandments. Today we start thinking about taking the Lord’s Name in vain.
“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 2:7 (ESV)
For many people, this commandment starts and ends with saying God’s Name in inappropriate ways. I think this commandment goes much deeper than that, and we will discuss that in a moment. For now, let’s address the issue of misusing God’s Name as a curse or swear word.
I don’t know how or when the name of Jesus became a curse word. It seems rather odd, and if you yelled out the name of some other religious figure when you hit your thumb with a hammer, you might be considered rather weird!
Every time someone uses the name of Jesus, or shouts “Oh my God!” in this way, they clearly misuse God’s name. It shows a lack of reverence for the Creator of the universe. We have no doubts all slipped up at times, uttering a word in anger we should not have. For the Christian though, we must endeavour to not use the name of God in this way.
This commandment clearly covers this issue. When we swear using Christ’s name, we break this commandment and must stop.
The commandment goes further than this though. Taking the Lord’s name in vain is far more than just uttering a curse every now and again. It is really about representing God in the world.
When we take His name, we literally taking His name on and representing it in the world. It might be like the police officer you see robbing a bank – clearly they are not representing their office and position well!
When we become Christians, we are making a commitment to Jesus and should not do so lightly. This is illustrated, for me at least, at a public baptism. When my children were young, we chose not to baptise them, favouring instead that they make their own decision when they were old enough. We held a thanksgiving service when they were born, and as parents promised to raise them in the church. Late last year, our two eldest daughters decided to be baptised and both us as parents and the church made clear that they were making promises to God and they should not do so unless they were committed to fulfilling them.
As Christians in the world, we are observed and scrutinised more than most. Has anyone ever said this to you: “That’s not very Christian of you…” Even the world holds us to higher standards than the average.
Taking the Lord’s name in vain is to say you are committed to Him and following His ways, but to act quite differently. It is really hypocrisy, and something the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were guilty of throughout the Gospels.
Jesus’ most challenging words were for those who were supposed to be “religious” and yet treated people most unfairly. They kept the finer points of the Law, and did things to be seen by others, yet they lacked to do the most important or weightier parts of the Scriptures.
“How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your mint, dill, and cummin, but have neglected the more important matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are the things you should have practiced, without neglecting the others.
Matthew 23:23 (ISV)
Likewise the parable of the Good Samaritan gives us some help here.
After careful consideration, Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of bandits. They stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 By chance, a priest was traveling along that road. When he saw the man,[h] he went by on the other side. 32 Similarly, a descendant of Levi came to that place. When he saw the man,[i] he also went by on the other side. 33 But as he was traveling along, a Samaritan came across the man.[j] When the Samaritan[k] saw him, he was moved with compassion. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
Luke 10:30-34 (ISV)
Who do you think best represented God in that story? The priest and the Levites were the ones who had “taken the Lord’s name” and yet left this man in desperate need alone and without offering a jot of help.
This commandment encourages us all to take our Christian walk seriously. Encountering Christ should lead to a change in our behaviour, and if it doesn’t, then we must ask ourselves if we have really surrendered fully to Jesus.
Jesus is not just our Saviour, He is our Lord also. Many of us are more excited about salvation than we are about Lordship and surrender. But they come as a package.
If you are anything like me, then you will be challenged by this commandment. I take my relationship with God seriously, but I could do more. Let this be a challenge to us all to come up higher and to properly represent the name of Jesus on the Earth.