The SECOND COMMANDMENT tells us not to do it, but what does it really mean to take God’s name in vain? The dictionary tells us that it means to use God’s name in an irreverent or disrespectful manner. Swearing a false oath is also a vain use of God’s name. Realistically, almost anytime you mention God’s name outside of prayer there’s the danger of using it in vain.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Father, hallowed be Thy Name” (Luke 11:2). The psalmist writes “Glorify the Lord with me and together let us exalt His Name” (Ps 34:3). Yet, whenever you say or hear “oh m’God, oh m’God” as an exclamation, or even more pronounced as “oh … my … God”, it is most certainly not done in a reverent manner. Listen carefully this week. That increasingly popular way of self expression can be heard many times each day, in school, at work, or especially in movies and on television. Even worse is when the name of our Savior is used in a drawn out expletive. The excuse that it’s just a bad habit is a weak one. At some point those using God’s name in vain become aware of their speech and willfully choose to continue.
In Matthew 5:34-37 Jesus warns against invoking holy names and places even when swearing oaths, indicating that our word alone should be good at all times and that emphasizing it with an oath “comes from the evil one”.
Perhaps it’s time for everyone to read and heed the little known second part of the second commandment where it explicitly says, “For the Lord will not leave unpunished the one who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). That statement alone should make us more aware of our patterns of speech and help us realize the importance and holiness attached to the name of our Creator.
To quote an Old Testament writer, “Let not your mouth form the habit of swearing, or habitually utter the Holy Name” for that person “will not remain free from sin” (Sirach 23:9-10). Instead, let us all join with the psalmist in exclaiming “May my mouth speak the praise of the Lord, and may all flesh bless His Holy Name forever and ever” (Ps. 145:21).