I guess it’s no secret by now that I’ve been just a little bit disillusioned with my fellow Evangelicals lately. I think this feeling comes to many of us who, after experiencing just enough adulthood, realize that age does not inherently give a person wisdom. It’s that feeling you get when you realize that, intellectually speaking, you’re on your own. You can’t trust everything you’ve been taught. And really, you shouldn’t. I think a big part of spiritual growth is learning to question everything. After all – God’s truth can stand up to the deepest of scrutiny.
With that said, I want to re-visit the Third Commandment. It is a passage of scripture that, like so many others, has been plucked out of context and used to back up personal agendas. How can “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God” possibly back up a personal agenda? I’m glad you asked. In the modern day, over-politicized Evangelical Church where we pretend that the government has it out for us, many have embraced a “Christian” way of life that has morphed into something that is, well, completely unCHRISTian. We’ve become a group of people who carry on a “persecution complex,” clinging to a notion of self-righteousness rather than striving to actually become righteous (and to know what it means). That’s why you can log onto Facebook and Twitter today and see more Christians hating President Obama and selfishly clinging to their guns than loving God and loving others. But that’s all for another blog post. UPDATE: My good friend tells me the gun comment is antagonistic to gun owners. Rather than delete what I said, I offer this disclaimer: I am not anti 2nd Amendment. The “selfish clinging” I am referring to is in regard to those who refuse to have a civilized conversation about gun control.
It’s this pursuit of self righteousness, not actual righteousness, that has resulted in the complete misuse of the Third Commandment. So, what does it REALLY mean to misuse the name of the Lord your God? It might mean that God doesn’t want us cursing with it. But I don’t see how we serve a God who could be so small-minded that he would slip that little “no OMG” into the Ten Commandments only because he doesn’t like the sound of it. Let’s look at the context in which the commandment was given.
The Hebrew word for vain (taking the Lord’s name in vain) simply means emptiness, nothingness, vanity, lying, and worthlessness. In other words, if you take the Lord’s name in vain, you are using it in an empty, worthless, and possibly decietful manner. The people that the Israelites (the recipients of the Commandments) were going to be in contact with were extremely superstitious. Their religious leaders would use the name of their god as a sort of magic word. It gave their meager words more weight to attach a god’s name to them. “Baal told me to say this to you.” So God (Yahweh) included this Commandment to His people so that they would not make the mistake of putting words in His mouth. In saying, “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God,” God is telling His people that they should not presume to speak on His behalf when He did not necessarily provide the words.
So what does this mean? It means that we’re all guilty of breaking the Third Commandment. How many times have you attributed your actions to God’s leading when you knew full well it was your own selfish ambition that guided you? How many times have you said “God told me that ________,” or “The spirit is leading me to __________.” Be careful. When we do this, we’re attributing human behaviors to an all-knowing God. It is spiritual forgery. This is why James 3:1 tells us “not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Delivering a message from God is serious business, no matter what size the message is. Whether it’s a full-blown sermon or a casual apologetic for your behavior, be careful when you sign God’s name at the bottom.
Oh, and don’t say OMG. It makes people mad.