Taking the Lord’s Name In Vain

Taking the Lord’s Name In Vain

What exactly does the 3rd of the 10 Commandments mean when it says, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain”? When I was growing up I was taught that meant “don’t cuss”. “God damn” is, I was taught, taking God’s name in vain. That phrase seems to still be a sticking point in broadcast and print. You will frequently see “G-d” or hear “{beep} dammit” in media.

The word “vain” could mean working on something doomed to fail, self-centered, or irreverent.

I looked at what some Christian websites put forth as the meaning of the 3rd, and a lot of them aligned with what I was taught, “God doesn’t damn people or things”, but there were a few that supported what I came to think that commandment means – using the name of God in a selfish manner.

Spend a few minutes on Facebook and you will likely come across someone thanking God for answering what ultimately is a trivial and selfish prayer:

  • Sold a car
  • Favorite sportsball team won
  • Finally got a date with that person from church
  • Found a convenient parking spot at a crowded mall
  • Guidance in selecting a movie to rent
  • That time in Vegas
  • Didn’t get a speeding ticket
  • It didn’t rain on the 4th of July
  • Seated quickly at Ruby Tuesday
  • Uncle Carl stayed away from/came to the family reunion

People will say they prayed for these things and God answered their prayers. God helps find lost car keys, but doesn’t stop world hunger. God “cured” your cancer, but allowed that 6 year old with leukemia to die. Those people are using God to boost their own vanity.


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