Sunday, May 24, 2009

Taking the Lord's Name in Vain

Have you ever wondered what is really meant by the commandment "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain?"
On the surface, and with our contemporary understanding of this phrase, it would seem to mean that we shouldn't use the Lord's name irreverently, to use it senselessly, or to use it as a swear or curse word. But if you look up the other definitions to the word "vain" I think it actually goes a lot deeper than this. The 3rd through 6th definitions listed on give this commandment a different and deeper meaning:

3. ineffectual or unsuccessful; futile: a vain effort.
4. without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or worthless: vain pageantry; vain display.
5. Archaic. senseless or foolish.—Idiom
6. in vain, a. without effect or avail; to no purpose: to apologize in vain.

When we take Christ's name upon us in vain it means that we are doing it without taking it seriously. We may have been baptized or joined a church but we haven't done so with the right purposes and intentions. If we are becoming "Christians" just to accept the benefits that Christ promises without having the real intention to live as He has commanded us then we are taking His name in vain. We are doing it in a futile way because Christ himself has declared:
"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.” Matt. 7:22–23."
If we are only going through the motions of being a believer, if we live life as a superficial Christian, it will all be in vain. He cannot save those who haven't truly accepted Him. And to accept Him is to obey Him. Our lives should clearly show that we are His followers. You can't be joined to Christ through a simple declaration of belief or by a stated intent- He requires works as the proof of our belief.
People shouldn't observe us and be left wondering if we believe in Jesus Christ. The things we say, the things we do, the way we live our lives testifies to Christ and to those around us that we are either following Christ with an assurance of being reunited with Him or that we have taken His name in vain.

When we take Christ's name upon us, as with the analogy of marriage to Him, we are doing it with the purpose of becoming His. We want to be joined with Him because it is only through Him that we can be saved and enjoy eternal life. But, as with marriage, this is a commitment that requires real effort and a lot of hard work. We can't be casual in our relationship with Christ without taking His name in vain.

All around us we hear God and the Lord's name taken in vain verbally. It's sad to think that so many people have come to accept the casual and irreverent use of the names of deity as a common part of everyday speech. It's even more sad to think that the verbal use of their names is just a sign of how little they truly understand about taking on the Lord's name, and how much they're missing out on because of it. The Lord stands ready to welcome us to His fold and to pour out blessings on us. Are we truly willing to take the Lord's name upon us?


Papa D said...

"People shouldn't observe us and be left wondering if we believe in Jesus Christ."

I've long thought that how we internalize His teachings and become like Him is a FAR better indication of whether or not we take His name in vain than "merely" what we say - as important as it is to not take His name in vain in our speech.

Mama D said...

More great insight from the wonderful Patty. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

Alicia said...

Totally agree. It makes my ears burn when I hear God's name casually. I am especially glad to learn that saying you belong to Christ and then living otherwise is another facet of using His holy name in a vain fashion. May His grace be with us all as this world falls so short of His standards.

Anonymous said...

thanks !! very helpful post!