Summary: Third in a series on the Ten Commandments, focusing on sincerity and honoring God’s name.
Rule #3: Mean What You Say!
By Pastor Scott Heine · June 18, 2000
A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to consider some tough questions: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your life — not just at this moment, or because of whatever circumstances you’ve faced, but rather an overall evaluation? And, next, what would it take for your life to be a “perfect ten” — a life filled with extraordinary joy, satisfaction, hope, delight, purpose, significance, etc.?
You might remember Jesus’ answer to the question: love God and love others — nice and simple, easy to remember, but something that can take a lifetime to master. Making God number one in our lives — our highest priority — is the beginning of living life to its fullest, and it is an all-encompassing commitment. It’s also something that we cannot do on our own; it takes God’s grace and power to help us be all that we can be. So, essentially, if you want your life to be a “perfect ten,” you need to establish a loving, enthusiastic, passionate relationship with God which so transforms your life that you naturally love others with an enthusiastic passion.
God expanded on the strategy of loving God and loving others in his instructions in the Old Testament, which are sometimes called “the Law.” And of course, the summary of the Law is found in those famous ten instructions that we call “the Ten Commandments.” They are God’s strategy for living life to its fullest.
The first four all have to do with loving God:
1. Make him our number one priority — “No other gods before me.”
2. Worship him on his terms (i.e., God as he really is, not merely “God as we understand him”) — “No false images of me.”
3. Relate to him with sincerity; don’t take him for granted — “My name is holy”
4. Keep ourselves fresh and focused by setting aside time each week to savor God and enjoy life — “My day is holy”
The next six all have to do with loving others:
5. Honor parents (authority)
6. Honor life — no murder
7. Honor commitment and faithfulness — no adultery or betrayal
8. Honor ownership — no stealing
9. Honor integrity — no lying or deception
10. Honor blessings — no coveting; no jealous greed
And it’s not that these are merely a list of “do’s and don’ts”; this is God’s strategy for really enjoying life — of living life to its fullest, and experiencing all the blessings God has in store for us. Following the Ten Commandments doesn’t guarantee that your life won’t have its share of tragedies and sorrows, but it does mean that you’ll minimize that suffering and find a way to persevere through it without your joy being shaken.
This morning I’d like us to focus our attention on the third of these commandments, which is found in Exodus 20:7. It’s a command that is sometimes misunderstood, and often taken to the extremes while ignoring the whole point, so let’s look at it carefully. The third commandment goes like this:
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Or, if you come from a more traditional background, you’ve heard this commandment summarized as: “You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.”
Using God For Profanity
Most people will immediately make a connection between this commandment and using “God” for profanity. That’s because we really desecrate the name of God when we attach it to some sort of curse or vulgarity. And it’s a sad commentary on our culture that the words “God” and “Jesus” are being used so frequently for anything from a simple interjection of surprise — like, “Oh my God” or “Jesus Christ!” — to phrases that are nothing less than vile and obscene.
And what makes the casual uses of God’s name so offensive is not only the vulgarity attached to them, but also the total lack of meaning in their use. When someone hears news that catches them off guard and they blurt out, “Oh my God,” they are rarely making that statement as a prayer, asking God to intervene in the circumstances. They’re just saying it…without any thought, without any meaning, without any reverence or significance. In those instances, “God” and “Jesus” have become mere words — just noise to indicate an emotion of anger or shock.
And that’s really at the heart of the problem here. This third commandment says that you and I are not to treat God as meaningless. He’s not just “background noise” in our lives. When we talk about God, we need to mean what we say.