Under the Law of Moses it was made quite clear to the Israelite people that they were not to use Jehovah's name in vain. It was, in fact, made a part of the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain" (Ex.20:7; Deut.5:11). Throughout the history of the Jews they were constantly reminded of this command (see Lev.18:21; 19:12; 20:3; 21:6; 22:2,32; Prov.30:9; Isaiah 52:5). Several examples of using the Lord's name in vain and the resulting punishment are found in the Old Testament.
As God's spiritual Israel we need to be reminded that it is just as sinful today as it was then to use His name in vain. Even so, God's people do use His name in vain. Even among our group here I have witnessed this being done by those claiming to be children of God.
It is sad indeed that those who profess to be the servants and worshipers of Jehovah will use His name in a vain way. But why is this so? I am convinced part of the reason is that many people do not know what it means to use the Lord's name in vain. Therefore, they use the Lord's name in vain and do not even realize it. So what does it mean to use the Lord's name in vain?
The word vain means empty, void of any real value. To use the Lord's name in vain is to use the Lord's name in an empty way; in a way which has no real value. The only way using the Lord's name would not be without value is to use it for those things it was intended to be used for. In what ways are we to use the Lord's name?
First, we are to use the Lord's name in worship. Worship is "courtesy or reverence paid to worth; hence, honor; respect...To perform acts of homage or adoration" (Webster). God's people love, honor, respect and adore our Heavenly Father. Expressions of this adoration are acts of worship.
The Lord's name is used in worship since it is to be the object of our worship. Notice we are to glorify His name: "Who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy; for all the nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy righteous acts have been made manifest" (Rev.15:4) and "Ascribe unto Jehovah the glory due unto his name.." (1 Chron.16:29;
Psa.29:2; 96:8). We are to "bless his holy name" (Psa.103:1) and "..praise thy name for thy loving-kindness and for thy truth.." (Psa.138:2). We ought to "love the name of Jehovah" (cf.Isaiah 56:6). Because our God is holy, righteous, loving, just, etc... the psalmist wrote, "Holy and reverend is his name" (Psa.111:9). In our worship, whether by songs, prayers, preaching, etc.., we are to praise and glorify the high and holy name of Jehovah.
Secondly, we must obviously use the Lord's name to teach others about Him. The Hebrew writer said, "without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him" (Heb.11:6). We cannot cause others to believe in God without using His name in teaching them.
Whenever we use the Lord's name in these activities we are using the Lord's name in the way He intended for us to use it. However, whenever we use the Lord's name in other ways or for other things than these, then we are guilty of using the Lord's name in vain.
Examples of how the Lord's name is used in vain is seen in the exclamatory speech people often use. (An exclamation is defined as, "a sharp utterance of strong feeling...A word of outcry; an interjection" -Webster.) People use exclamatory speech when they are surprised with good or bad or at times when they are angry. Constantly, especially among younger groups, we hear "GOD!" or "JESUS!" used to express their strong feelings about something. GOD and JESUS are names to be used in worship and in teaching, not as exclamatory speech. We show disrespect for our God and Saviour when using His name in such a vain and worthless manner.
As Christian parents we owe it to our heavenly Father to teach our children not to use the Lord's name in such a vain manner.
But these are not the only examples of using the Lord's name in vain. Some others are used just as often, even by Christians, without realizing they mean just the same.
"Gomer Pyle" did great harm by teaching us to use these words as exclamatory speech. As a result of the influence of such shows these words are used constantly, especially among our children. However, the use of these words is using the Lord's name in vain!
Notice what these words mean. "Gosh" is defined as "an exclamation or mild oath: Gosh, it's cold out today. [altered pronunciation of God]" (World Book Dictionary, page 919). "Golly" is defined as "an exclamation of wonder, pleasure, joy, or the like, used as a mild substitute for 'God'" (World Book Dictionary, page 916). These words stand for God! When we use these words it is the same as if we used the name of Jehovah itself! The use of these words is using the Lord's name in vain.
"Gee" is another word, like "Gosh" and "Golly", which stands for something else. "Gee" is defined as "an exclamation or mild oath; gee whiz. [short for Jesus]" (World Book Dictionary, page 886). When we use this word it is the same as if we used the name of our Lord itself! Use of the word "Gee" is using the Lord's name in vain.
Brethren, it is just as wrong for us to use the Lord's name in vain as it was for the Jews. If you find you have been guilty of this, perhaps without realizing it, then begin today to purify yourself and your speech.
In this short article we haven't dealt with many of the other sins of the tongue. There are even other words which we ought not to utter. But in this article we have tried to deal only with the sin of using the Lord's name in vain.
"Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear" (Eph.4:29).
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This page was last updated on Wednesday, November 04, 1998.