I’ve been studying the commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain recently and the more I do the more I think our reducing it to “swearing” misses the point entirely. I now read it this way:
> “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name [and use it] in vain”
I think of all the opinions, ideas, causes, movements, etc. we involve ourselves in. I think the Lord desires we be “anxiously engaged”. But the problem comes when we drag the Lord into our misguided causes and invoke His name when doing so. When we do that we are “taking the Lord’s name [and using it] in vain” — towards an end unworthy of Him.
Some specifics come to mind:
* Prosperity gospel
* Reducing gospel to patriotism
* Insisting our favorite social causes are sanctioned by the Lord
* Confusing politics and gospel
These, I believe, result in “taking the Lord’s name in vain” far more than when our language is crass or we disrespect Him through idle language. An interesting historical note is the taboo of even pronouncing the Lord’s name which developed in the Second Temple Judaism by the Hellenistic period.
Note, I do think we should use the Lord’s name as He clearly desires our faith in Him affect our lives. In fact, we use His name all the time, in our prayers, our ordinances, our testimonies, and our covenants. The problem is when we think the mere invocation of the Lord’s name provides justification for our causes rather than when the Spirit justifies through the testimony of discipleship.
Of course, we also use the Lord’s name in vain when we do use His name as an expletive. But reducing the commandment to just swearing seems to lead to sanctimoniousness. For me, asking myself whether the causes, opinions, ideas, etc I attribute to the Lord are worthy of Him is far more powerful in producing a repentant attitude and life.
This is a guest post by Caleb Jones who blogs regularly about technology and religion at Transfigurist.org, the world’s largest advocacy network for ethical use of technology and religion to extend human abilities.
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