Have you ever thought what it means to misuse the Name of God? I want to discuss what it really means to misuse God’s name and this may come as a big surprise to you. I am almost positive the reader has already preempted what I want to say, however, my hope is that it will not only surprise you but deeply convict you as well, that is; “…If the shoe fits…” Obviously, the text I will be referring to comes out of Exodus 20:7.
But, before I get into that, let me just point out a few simple things: Now, immediately most people will think of blasphemy whereby people should not use God’s name in a conversation that ridicules or disdains God’s name. For example, a person may bump their toe, or even just simply have had a bad day at work and the next thing you know; out pops the famous phrase that so many people almost immediately spew out and most times with utter contempt and deep articulation, “JESUS CHRIST” or “OH MY GOD” or “JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH”. Hollywood, as we all know, is very famous for this, and it is the name of God or Jesus that is always used in the movies as if it is just a normal word, on one hand, not even thought of as a curse word, and then on the other hand, deliberately used as a curse word. Either way, it’s “in-your-face”, in your house, at the workplace, on the Big Screen – it’s ubiquitous!
People get so desensitised to this that I have even heard Christian folk use this type of language when they are angry or when they are just simply frustrated. Some, sadly enough, do not even have to be angry, but use God’s name so often in sentences and conversations, within rude jokes, or even in response to someone else’s statement within the conversation. It is so common today that I am not even sure they realise it, and it comes out so naturally like any other curse word – it makes no difference, it is just another curse word. Well, let me say emphatically that it is never good, especially for a Christian, to use God’s name as a curse word.
- Firstly, the Bible teaches us that God’s name is Holy and, in fact, so Holy that even the Hebrews in the Old Testament were even too afraid to use His [Yahweh) name just in case they blasphemed His Holy name. The Hebrew Nation in the Old Testament, as I like to put it, were God’s chosen nation through His Sovereign Choice, to be a “WINDOW” for and into all the world so that the world could see what the One True God is really like. Therefore, even His name was to be used with absolute care and fear so as to portray Him and His glory!
- Secondly, nothing has changed for you and me, especially over 2000 years after Christ’s resurrection and ascension. The name of God is just not some ordinary name but it is a name that is not only HOLY but also a name of Salvation and for the salvation of man because “Salvation is found in no one else, for There is no other name under heaven given unto man by which he must be saved (Acts 4:12), and that is the name of Jesus, right? There is much more I can say about this, but let this suffice for now.
Now, all the above is all true and God forbid that we, as Christians, are in the habit of using God’s name as a swear word or even loosely within our conversations! If that is the case, then STOP doing that.
What is the more important meaning of Exodus 20:7?
However, with all this being said, and bearing in mind that it is never good to use God’s name as a curse word, this is actually not what Exodus 20:7 is actually referring to at all. Let me quote to you firstly from the NIV Version and then from the ESV Version.
Exodus 20:7 (NIV). “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
Exodus 20:7 (ESV). “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
Now, let me set this up for you.
- Firstly, the word “Misuse” has lost its potency over time and in our day, and in our vernacular and even within our localisms, the word “Misuse” has lost its effectiveness and has been diluted and it simply seems that it is referring to not using God’s name in a cursing or swearing way. However, this is not what it actually means.
- Secondly, and unfortunately, a lot of modern versions include this word “Misuse” in the text, and we seem to breeze over it and think, “I know what that means; I must not use God’s name as a swear word…” Maybe 100 or 200 years ago or even more it may very well have been understood in its full meaning, but, today I do not think that is the case at all! A good example would be when one uses the word awesome but not understanding that awesome is meant to make you fall on your face. Do you get the idea? “Wow, that cake was really awesome” and we know that you mean that the cake was really great. Perhaps if you said that 200 years ago, someone would be expecting you to fall to your knees in absolute dread and maybe even keel over and die. Perhaps they would even think that you are now paying homage to the cake.
Nevertheless, I need to point out that both the KJV, NKJV, and also, quite thankfully, the ESV use the word “Vain” and I am very grateful that they do so because it brings a whole new meaning to Exodus 20:7. Now, without boring you with all the Hebrew words, let me just give you the Strong’s Concordance reference and perhaps you can go and do your own homework. Strong’s 7723 (shawv). Just as an interesting fact, the English word “misuse” does not even appear in the Strong’s Concordance regarding Exodus 20.
Misrepresenting God and bringing Disdain to His Name!
Nevertheless, this is what it means in short: YOU MUST NOT USE THE NAME OF GOD FALSELY; UNDER FALSE PRETENCES, OR MISREPRESENT HIS NAME, OR MAKING USE OF HIS NAME WHEN LYING OR TELLING LIES IN ORDER FOR SELF-GAIN.
Now, this brings a whole new meaning to Exodus 20:7! We, as Christians are to preach His word with integrity and treat His word with absolute holiness. We are not allowed to make up any other Gospel other than preaching the pure and unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ and Father God.
Too often are people being misled by false teachers, prosperity gospel teachers and the name-it-and-claim-it propagators. We live in a day and age where God’s name is being disdained and brought into disrepute and is being rejected and vomited upon by the world. But, to make matters worse, even Christian Pastors and Christian evangelists et cetera are going around misrepresenting Gods’ word and His name by bringing new gospels and teachings that are in fact taught and endorsed by Satan and his demons (1 Timothy 4). We are compelled and commanded by God not to misrepresent Him, bring disdain to His name, and to preach any other Gospel other than His word and Jesus Christ. This is the desperate problem today. So many people are running after these doctrines that really come from demons and people do not even know that God is being misrepresented. That is why God says that He will not hold anyone guiltless for doing so.
Jesus, Himself, feels so strongly about this that He says that if you mislead or cause someone else to sin you might as well go and tie a millstone around your neck and throw yourself into the sea and drown yourself, (Matthew 18, Mark 9, and Luke 17). Do you see the implications and also the passion of God about His name and the way we represent Him in our world and our society’s and cultures in our very day and age? If you are a Christian, think about the next time you bring God’s word, speak to someone else about His word or even quote Scripture to others? Think about what you are entertaining, especially when it comes to the notorious Tele-Evangelist and all the famous Christian icons of today who are selling their books and videos left, right, and centre, making millions because millions are not just following like lost sheep but loving every gullible moment. Also, as the famous line from Charlotte’s Web goes:“Trust me, Wilbur. People are very gullible. They’ll believe anything they see in print.”
― E.B. White,
Are you and I preaching God’s word and doing it with integrity or are you and I doing it willy-nilly – indifferent to what God really wants and what He really says in His word? Are you preaching and teaching God’s truth and guidance or is it your own man-made gospel. Remember these words next time you decide to even utter one syllable; I WILL NOT HOLD ANYONE GUILTLESS WHO ABUSES MY NAME AND MISREPRESENTS ME BECAUSE YOU WILL CAUSE OTHERS TO GO ASTRAY AND NEVER GET TO SEE MY LOVE FOR THEM OR EVEN EXPERIENCE THE SALVATION THAT I, THE LORD YOUR GOD, OFFER FREELY BECAUSE OF MY DEAR SON WHO DIED FOR THE WHOLE WORLD AND FOR THEIR INIQUITIES!
Either way, blaspheming and cursing the Creator God and using His name senselessly and loosely is wrong, but the latter – the misrepresentation and perversion of His Word – is probably the much more serious offense!