What it Really Means to Take the Lord’s Name in Vain?
To take the name of the Lord in vain has been an over simplified and misused command in Christian circles for far too long. Many people who don’t even know all of the Ten Commandments can tell you their version of taking the Lord’s name in vain. The most common response would be to say something like “Oh my God” or to say “God” in combination with damning something or someone. You may be surprised to find out the this is not the meaning at all.
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.Exodus 20:7 KJV
If you look around the internet you will find most articles focus on speaking God’s name. Many people will try and argue what “in vain” means. Would it be “in vain” to say “God Bless you”, if you don’t really mean it? That would definitely be speaking the Lord’s name in vain, but is it “taking” the Lord’s name in vain.
The Devil wants People to Focus on the Wrong Word
Satan loves causing us to miss the main point of anything God says. His first words in the garden were “Did God really say…”. The New Testament tells the Church to stand in unity with each other, but with every denomination arguing over the meaning of this word or that word, the church is far from united. Satan has done a good job in the church and a great job on the third commandment.
If you move the focus from “in vain” to the word “take” you will get a whole different outlook on this verse of scripture. You see, to take the Lord’s name is a serious thing. The word take here has very little connection with speaking and very much to do with living. The literal meaning is to lift, bear, accept, carry or take. This word is also translated as armor-bearer several times in the Old Testament.
Thou shalt not Bear God’s Name in Vain
This is an accurate way of rewording this command. If you are a Christian and claim that the God of the Bible is your God, then you bear His Name to the world around you. This word is the same Hebrew word that is used for the Priests bearing the names of Israel before the Lord when they offered sacrifices for all the people.
The priests represented all of Israel to the Lord. As we become a Christian, we take the name of God.
God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under [the Law,Galations 4:4-7 NASB
so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
God wants us to take His Name. He wants us to become His children. He wants it so much that He sent Jesus to pay the price for us. What God doesn’t want is for us to take that name in vain.
Jesus says that when we take the name of God we are to be a light to the world. That we are to be a purifying and preserving salt. If we take the name of God and do not be the salt and light that we are intended to be, then Jesus tells us we are good for nothing.
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how [can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.Matthew 5:13 NASB
Christians must take it seriously that we bear the name of God. We represent God to those that do not know Him. How horrible it is if we represent God falsely to our friends and family. If your family accepts this false god, have they accepted God at all?
How have we learned Christ? It ought to be a startling thought, that we may have learned him wrong. That must be far worse than not to have learned him at all: his place is occupied by a false Christ, hard to exorcise! The point is, whether we have learned Christ as he taught himself, or as men have taught him who thought they understood, but did not understand him. …The Christian religion, throughout its history, has been open to more corrupt misrepresentation. Have we learned Christ in false statements and corrupted lessons about him, or have we learned himself?George Macdonald, The Truth in Jesus
Thou shalt not Accept God’s name in vain
Looking at the meaning of the Hebrew word “Take” again, this is another accurate way of reading this commandment. As a Christian we are commissioned to God throughout the world and spread the good news. To tell people of the redeeming work of Christ is not only good to do, it is our duty.
The problem can sometimes be in our delivery of this good news. It seems that Christians want so badly for people to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that they will only share it half way. Jesus did not do this at all. Jesus, when he was sharing the Good News himself, told people not to follow him blindly.
And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.Luke 14:27-30 NKJV
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—
lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,
saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
Jesus wants you to follow him, but he would rather you not follow him at all than to follow him for a season. When you become a follower of Jesus you accept the responsibility of carrying the name of God. Accepting Jesus is a big deal and should not be done in vain.
This is probably where we should get into the meaning of in vain. It means deceitfully or to no effect. One of the major aspects of the Gospel that is often left out is the cost of following him…..Your Life. Part of accepting new life in Christ is giving up the old life. In fact, that is the Good News in a nutshell. Christ did not die so you could go to heaven, he died so that you can be reborn and transformed into His image.
Unfortunately, the church has largely fallen into telling people “if you want to go to heaven, just pray this prayer”. The New Testament shares a very different version of the Gospel than I hear most of the time. Listen to what Paul said about how he shared in Damascus:
I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do.Acts 26:20 NLT
Jesus is the way to God, because he is the way to true change. Jesus is truth and life. Ironically the way to this life is to give up your own life. To die to yourself.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.Galations 2:20 NASB
I want all people to accept God’s name and His salvation. I don’t want anyone to accept him falsely or to no effect (in vain). When you accept God in vain, you are like the man who hears God , but does not do what he says.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.Matthew 7:19-27 KJV
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
There will be some that accept His name in vain. They will stand before God one day saying “Lord, Lord…” as He replies “depart from me you workers of iniquity”. All of the works they did in the name of God meant nothing, because they accepted His name in vain. They did not die to themselves and live to Christ. Their relationship to God was on the surface only and they never had an intimate encounter with the Lord.
The parable of the sower tells us that there are different ways to receive God’s word. It may seem like someone has it, or that you have it, but Jesus warns us to be careful how we hear. If you want to know God, listen closely. God is not far away from you and he wants you to draw near to Him in sincerity. He wants a deep meaningful relationship with you, so that when you take his name, you do not take it in vain.
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.Jeremiah 29:!3 KJV