Crabtree Acres


Thou shall not take the name of the Lord in vain

I have always been a little smug concerning this commandment for various reasons. I have been a little proud that I have overcome a constant barrage of curse words into my brain during my growing up years and have not adopted the habit of using curse words in my vocabulary. I have even at times been standing beside someone who uses God's name in careless ways and in my mind have said things like, "Please don't treat the name of my Savior and Lord in that manner." It was almost like the Pharisee who prayed and said, "I thank God that I am not like that Publican over there." Sometimes with students who used God's name lightly I would ask them, "Are you praying when you speak to God that way?"

As I studied the word vain, however, I found out that I have taken the Name of the Lord in vain in many ways that people do not associated with this commandment. Let's look at the meanings of the words vain and vanity together and see if there is a relationship.

1. Empty; worthless; having no substance, value or importance

2. Fruitless; ineffectual

3. False; deceitful; not genuine

4. To use God's name with levity (lightness, inconsistency, changeableness) or profaneness (irreverence, abuse, contempt, anti-holy; to pollute or debase)

If we look at each of these definitions with God's name in mind, we see some interesting thoughts about how we may be guilty of disobeying this third command.

1. Treating God's name as worthless or empty can be as much a problem for a person who claims to know Christ as for someone who doesn't even knows He exists. In the Bible a name represented more than just a "calling card". Many people in the Bible received new names from God after their encounters with God. Saul became Paul; Simon became Peter; Levi became Matthew; Jacob became Israel. God himself has many names and they all represent a certain aspect of His character with authority or power behind each name given to Him. We are covenant children of God, who have received His name as part of our image to the world, Christian. What power and authority does that represent to us? He has given all that He has to us in His son Jesus and wants us to use the authority that He gives through His name to be overcomers in this life. Treating God's name as worthless is like a slap in His face, saying you don't have any power to overcome sin in my life, to help me in this situation, to be whatever I need.

It also may mean that His name has no importance in my life. We may just simply ignore God's name and His worth in our lives. We give credit to "Mother Nature", "Providence", "Luck", or "Fate" for the natural events we see increasing dramatically in our world, rather than acknowledging the authority that God has always maintained over His creation. Jesus spoke and the winds and waves obeyed Him. Why do we believe that that was a one-time event, rather than an ongoing natural act of someone in authority exercising His will over His subjects? The Scripture says that if man does not praise God then the rocks and trees will cry out in praise to Him. If we do not acknowledge Jesus as God, God will find ways to give Jesus the praise due Him. We may even give credit for spiritual growth and teaching to other teachers or seminars or pastors, rather than to the Holy Spirit. We may use phrases like, "My church teaches ...", "My pastor says ...", "Dr. Dobson says ...", or "Chuck Swindoll teaches ..."

2. Treating God's name as fruitless or ineffectual in our lives is even more depriving to us. Many of us, especially Americans, believe that we are self-made men and women who only need God in times of weakness. We believe that the statement "God helps those who help themselves" is actually from the Bible. Even if we know it isn't from the Bible we believe it is a Scriptural principle and live as if it's true. We have very little patience with weakness in our society and have adopted the humanistic view of the "survival of the fittest" even in our spiritual lives. I can remember as a child how condemned I felt if I cried. My younger sister expressed it best one time as she was being punished by my Father. She turned to him and said, "You can spank me all you want, but you will never make me cry!" He spanked her pretty hard and long, but she did not shed one tear. My grandparents and my father especially trained me over the years to view any show of emotion as a weakness that needed to be overcome. The only show of emotion of any kind that was allowed in adults was anger, it seems, but even that was unacceptable in children. We should not openly express the love we felt even for our parents by hugs, kisses, or even saying "I love you." This has had a profound effect on my adult life with my own husband and children and even with God. I can remember times when I actually hated for my own children to put their arms around my neck and hug me. My first reaction was to shrug it off and laugh at them for doing it. As much as I loved my family, I could not accept their shows of affection openly. I remember one vivid experience at a Sunday night service during a time of worship and praise. I felt the arms of Jesus literally go around my shoulders as if He were standing beside me putting His arms over my shoulders and wanting to comfort me. My first reaction was to shrug my shoulders and get the arm away. This was a turning point in my life with God and with my family because I asked God to change me in this and make me able to express my love for others in a Godly way. My life has not been the same since. My grandmother once told me that she regretted never having rocked or held her children and reading to them as she should have done. She was very busy with nine children and extended family members to care for at times, especially during the depression years, but she felt later in life that the emotional instability of her children as adults may have been caused by their being deprived of her emotional support more than for any other reason. I sometimes think of God as that loving parent who wants to give us His expressions of love and caring and yet we say to Him, "I'm self-made and strong; I don't need that mushy stuff." The Holy Spirit grieves because he has fruit of love, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, joy, peace, and goodness that He wants to display in our lives. We see many of these as weaknesses and do not want to have them displayed in our lives. I have found that these are strengths in any person, not weaknesses and where we are weak and depend upon the Holy Spirit to live these out in our lives, we become strong. Every area of what we think of as strengths in our lives, God will pull down and destroy so that we will know that we can never be self-made or self-supportive.

3. This third definition of being false, deceitful is interesting in relationship to taking God name in vain. When we use the word "vanity" many times we think of someone who think of themselves more often than they should and spends much time and effort trying to appear to be different than they really are. For girls it may mean lots of makeup and outward changes. I noticed on television the other day a group of people who were dressed in the most bizarre ways and wore the strangest hairdos, along with makeup of unusual colors. These young people were trying in every way possible to cover up what they really looked like as God made them to look. Being deceitful and false seems to be at the very core of our society today and seems to be reflecting how very unhappy we are with ourselves as God made us. The amount of money spent on plastic surgery, even among young people and the amount of money spent on makeup in America alone is astounding. We take God's name in vain when we do not reflect Him with our countenance but try to reflect anything else.

We can also be false and deceitful if we pretend for whatever reason to be something that we are not in our spiritual lives. The Pharisees were the most deceitful men of their day and the most condemned by Christ in His sermons.

See Matthew 23 and James 3:8-12

4. A. We use God's name in vain when we use it lightly. We may say "Praise the Lord" with our lips and yet not really expect God to really help us or provide what we really need. In our praise services we may sing songs without even realizing what we are saying.

B. Profane his name:

1. Irreverence-- cursings, etc.

2. Anti-holy way -- "Blasphemy" (attributing things of God to Satan and things of Satan to God); examples -- cartoons and games, "good" witches; psychics who attribute their powers to God himself

3. Pollute His name -- We mix worldly things in with the things of God and blaspheme His name among the Gentiles by acting as the world acts (Christian Rock Music, for example)

See Titus 2:5; Romans 2:23-24; Revelation 3:15-18; Revelation 2:19-20.

5. Use God's name for personal gain

See James 3:1-7; Matthew 6:1ff, especially 7; Matthew 15:1-11

Again, as Christ turned the “Thou shalt nots” into “Thou shalt” He tells us to reverence God’s name, to Praise God with all that is within us, to use His name to bless others, to pray in His name. All of these actions must come from the heart, not be forced from the outside. We must desire to do these things because He is in us and is guiding us in praise, worship, prayer, and blessing. Our flesh will say, “I will not say “_________”. Our soul will say “I won’t feel like saying “_______________”. But our spirit will say, “I will bless the Lord with my lips by blessing others.” [Psalm 72, 74:21]