“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.” In the exposition of the third commandment we learn there is more to taking the Lord’s name in vain than using it as a swear word. However, I would like to expand on the common usage of God’s name as “filler speech.” For want of some other expression, God’s name is inserted as an exclamation of surprise, of disgust, or some other emotion. The expression “Oh my God” is so common it is spoken without thought. Since most people do not actually talk to one another any longer, the expression shows up in texts, tweets, and emails as “OMG.” I would think to type this out surely requires a little bit of thought—more so than in spoken language because many are indeed so foolish as to speak without thinking.
The problem of determining whether this is sinful relates to intent. Is this intentionally disrespecting God’s name? Does intent rule, or is it overridden by the clearness of the command? In other words, if you do not intend to act wrongly are your wrong actions sinful? If you speak God’s name without intentionally disgracing Him, is it still sin? We only need to compare it with other things we do without intent. Consider the second commandment. If we hang a picture of Jesus on the wall without the intent of worshipping it, is it still wrong? Need we ask? If you offend someone unintentionally, is it still wrong? Ask government officials if you use a private email server for national security conversations, is it wrong if you had no intent to put this country in harm’s way? Wait, don’t answer that—apparently it is okay. Usually, however, the government is not concerned with your intent. When the law is broken, consequences must be faced. Most people have no intent to run over people on the sidewalk, but it could happen if you text while driving.
Likewise, with this command. We do not expect the world to get this, but Christians are definitely obligated to get it. We are supposed to think about what we say. We are supposed to be deliberate in our speech. Jesus said, “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). We can very well take this as His exposition of the third commandment: “The LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” There is no argument left to excuse the careless speech of those who say, “Oh my God,” “Oh, Jesus Christ,” “geez” and so on. They are clearly in violation of the command. The Christian should work overtime completely expunging these expressions from his vocabulary. Every word we speak has meaning whether said with intent. Our conscious thought should be as Paul advised: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17).
Pay attention to this and the other ways the Lord’s name is used wrongly. God allows no excuses. This is not the preacher’s opinion; it is the word of God. As the end of the message encourages, go to the Lord in repentance and contrition. He will forgive this sin as He does all others. The key is to recognize that you have offended the precious Saviour with or without intent, and to come with a promise to change your ways. I promise He will give great thought to intentional forgiveness.
Pastor V. Mark Smith