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Honoring God’s Name

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

These words, which are read to us from the pulpit every Sunday, often tend to become a mere formality, so often repeated that, to many of us, they become customary, dull, and uninteresting. This is sadly borne out by the fact that the third commandment is so lightly taken and is transgressed daily. We hear God’s name abused in the schoolroom, the office, the ballpark, and wherever we come in contact with the world and its amusements. In this fast moving age, profanity is becoming so commonplace that we find ourselves accepting it and even taking it for granted. In fact, God’s name is no longer profaned by the wicked only. More and more we find ourselves, the youth of today, conforming to the world and dishonoring our God by the careless use of His most holy name.

Most of us are very familiar with the different types of swearing. There is the direct use of God’s name, by which His name is taken in vain boldly and shamelessly. More common, and probably more frequent among our people, is the use of indirect forms of God’s name, such as Gosh or Gee. Words pertaining to heaven or hell, and attributes of God, are also types of swearing.

The catechism speaks of the sin against the third commandment as a heinous sin, greater and more provoking to God than any other. Transgression of this commandment is the only one of the ten commandments which is a sin against the most high God, and therefore it is to be punished with death. As people of God, we must be especially careful to honor God’s name; for, although God is angered by the continuous abuse of His name by the wicked, how much more His righteous indignation must be when we, His chosen people, disregard His holiness by taking His name upon our lips boldly and carelessly!

Some of us may say, “But look at me — I never swear!” Let us take a closer look. The name of God is not taken in vain when we are conscious of His nearness and act with habitual reference to His will. However, it is abused when we, insincere and hollow, solemnly join in the most sacred act of worship, honoring Him with the lips when our heart is really far from Him; and aren’t we just as guilty when we sit silently by, pretend not to notice, or even laugh it off, when our friends use God’s name lightly?

What, then, is the solution? Must we mention Him seldom and with bated breath? On the contrary, this is evidence of our failure to think of Him aright, rather than of loving devotion. The only safe rule is to be sure that our conception of God is high and real and intimate; to be humble and trustful toward Him; and to worship Him sincerely and pray without ceasing. Then, by speaking sincerely and frankly, the words which will rise naturally to our lips cannot fail to do him honor. His name will be continuously upon our mouths, and yet we will not take the name of the Lord our God in vain.