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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh My WHO? (The Third Commandment)

(This article is particularly for younger people, but it certainly applies to all of us.)

It seems to me that the third commandment is being horribly broken in our day to such a degree that has never been before. It isn’t a commandment that even we as Christians give much consideration to, generally because we think that we don’t break that one – and hopefully that is the case. But let’s consider it briefly.

The third of the ten commandments reads like this:
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. (Ex. 20:7, Deut. 5:11)
Some people may be inclined to think of this only as putting the word “God” in front of a curse. But there is much more to it than that. Any use of any of God’s names when not thinking of Him (in a right way) is a vain use and opens the abuser of the name to the punishment warned of in the commandment.

One significant way this commandment is broken is in our modern-day entertainment media. It would be hard to overestimate the influence that Hollywood has over American culture, ideas, and practices. And Hollywood, with very few exceptions, is no friend of Christianity. Although hard expletives may not be real common, their milder cousins are ubiquitous, both in movies and TV and in society. When a half-decent (and perhaps otherwise acceptable) movie is released, it is all-too-common to read the reviews and find the vain use of God’s name included in the script. This ought to grieve the heart of the Christian – having our Lord and Savior slandered and maligned in such a way is much worse than any name they might call us personally.

This flippancy about God’s name has worked its way into our culture. Perhaps the worst (or most common) phrase is abbreviated OMG. Chat and text messages often abbreviate many things, and of course this is an abbreviation of “oh my God”.
Christian, don’t allow yourself to so abuse God’s name! When this is said or typed, whether abbreviated or not, a vast majority of the time the person is not thinking about the Most High, but is merely being carelessly emphatic. This is wholly unacceptable. The Christian must not personally be so careless, and he should also be saddened when he hears or sees such abuse. There are also variations of that phrase as well as other phrases and acronyms that take the Lord’s name in vain.

Sometimes people will substitute the word “gosh” for “God”. This is called a minced oath or pseudo-profanity. Look up “gosh” in a dictionary – the etymology of the word tells us that it is simply a euphemism for “God”. The Christian who wishes to be above reproach in his speech would be wise to strike “gosh” from his vocabulary completely.

Beloved, strive to watch your lips carefully; be careful what you type. Be sensitive about the Lord’s name, and use it only with the most reverence and respect, thinking of Him and His magnanimous grace and mercy in your life. Don’t be a blasphemer, but instead your practice should be as the songwriter of old instructed:

From the rising of the sun to its setting
The name of the Lord is to be praised.
(Ps. 113:3)


P.S. John Piper addresess this question here (3 min. audio).

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