Article: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain | Anson Alummoottil Titus

Atheism is becoming more prevalent in today’s world. Fewer and fewer people identify with organized religion or any faith at all. But strangely, the names God and Jesus Christ feature very frequently in everyday speech. They are used primarily as casual exclamations. Some of those phrases are “Oh my God!” ÖMG”, “Jesus Christ!”, and “Lord Almighty.” People who use God’s name are generally unaware that it is offensive and upsetting to those who believe in and worship God. I must say, the most heinous sin is committing evil in God’s name, meaning “God will not forgive” — whoever takes His name in vain.” God will not forgive a person who violates the commandment.

When we look at the Hebrew version, it doesn’t just say “Do not take His name.” Instead, it says “Do not carry.” The Hebrew literally reads, “Do not carry the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” One of the most widely used new translations of the Bible, the New International Version, or NIV, uses the word “misuse” rather than the word “take:” “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” This is much closer to the original’s intent. What does it mean to “carry” or “misuse” God’s name? It means committing evil in God’s name. And that God will not forgive.

However, do people today use God’s name to swear that they believe in Him? People don’t profane and curse the monarch or the president, they don’t curse them. Then again, why would someone who does not believe in God use His name as a swear word if they do not trust Him? In what way does this matter?

The Bible makes it clear that God hates it. The Israelites had to use the name of God with profound reverence. Respect for God’s name is emphasized throughout the Old Testament, for example, in Deuteronomy 28:58, Malachi 4:2, and Psalm 8:1: ‘O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!’

In the ‘Lord’s prayer’ which Jesus gave his followers as an example of how we should address God, he began with the phrase, ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.’ Hallowed means ‘greatly revered’, and if we remembered that we would never use God’s name carelessly. It is not only God’s name that must be treated with respect, but also the name of Jesus. God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow (Philippians 2:9–10). God loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die to save us from our sins (John 3:16). Jesus Christ showed his love for us by willingly laying down his life for us (John 15:13). What does it say about us if we repay that love by using their names as swear words?

People kill in the name of God. Many have died and many are on their way to death. It began centuries ago, not yesterday. I believe God is one of the most complex and enigmatic of all human institutions. It is an instrument of love and peace on the one hand and a vehicle for hatred and violence on the other hand. People who murder in the name of God not only kill their victims, they kill reverence for God, too. That’s why the greatest sin is religious evil. That’s what the Third Commandment is there to teach: Don’t carry God’s name in vain. If you do, God won’t forgive you. AMEN.

-Anson Alummoottil Titus



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