Taking the Lord’s Name in vain

Everyone recognizes the verse, “thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Ex. 20:7) as being one of the Ten Commandments, but what does it mean to take the Lords name in vain? To many it means using God’s or Jesus Christ’s name in a cursing manner, and indeed, their names have been used in conjunction with some pretty awful swearing. This interpretation has been the one used and accepted for generations, but is it correct? Webster’s Dictionary defines vain with words like these; empty, worthless, fruitless, ineffectual, false, and not genuine. Psalm 39:6 says, “Surely every man walketh in a vain show, surely they make an uproar in vain”. Another translation renders this verse as; “Surely every  man walks to and fro, like a shadow in a pantomime, surely for futility and emptiness he is in turmoil”. David, in a Psalm of self-examination, saw himself as being insufficient to have a relationship with God that would garner His approval and saw only his own worthlessness. We also find this verse in James, Chapter 1; “If any man among you seem to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain”. (v. 26) Here is described a religious person who probably professes many positive things and he may even be someone with some authority in his church, but he has the fault of talking too much. From that maybe he thinks he knows a lot more than he actually does, or he freely gossips, and allows himself to become prideful. The verse implies that he has taken the Lord’s name in vain, that his religion isn’t genuine. To bring us back to our original verse, taking the Lord’s name in vain is akin to being a Bible believing Christian and yet not regarding and following what the Bible says.             The second half of Ex. 20:7 doesn’t get as much attention as the first but it says, “for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain”. God considers it a serious thing to pretend and to use his name in a frivolous manner. We are held accountable for our claim to be of the Lord and our actions need to live up to our words. Taking the Lord’s name in vain could be defined as fraud, for what is fraud but misrepresentation. God is a God of truth, and it is a serious thing to misrepresent Him in word and deed.

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