Summary: Taking God’s name in vain is more than just using or avoiding certain words in your language. It starts there, but it includes your actions too.

June 25, 2000 Exodus 20:7

“What’s in a name?”


Last Saturday, Tammy, Victoria, Ben, Erica and I decided to go on a picnic together up at Prickett’s Fort State Park. It was the first time that we had been there except just to drive through it one time last year. As we went into the different buildings in the fort, we discovered many interesting details about the history of WV. We were told that there were many such forts as that one located in the park. When Indians or some other enemy was attacking, the people would escape inside the walls of the fort for protection. Prickett’s Fort received its name from the family that owned the land – the Pricketts. I suppose that the nice thing about that is that as long as the fort is around, everyone will remember the family name. We also learned that Nutter Fort was named that because the Nutter family had a fort much like the one the Pricketts had. The fort is gone, but the city still bears the family name. I wonder though how many people actually think about the family – the Nutters – when they drive through or talk about Nutter Fort. The significance of the name and where it came from probably never crosses their mind. According to the listings in the phone book, there are still a lot of Nutters around, but as far as I can tell, there is only one Nutter family that still lives in Nutter Fort. Probably most of them don’t even think about the significance of their family name and the name of the city that wears their family name.

As we continued our tour of Prickett’s Fort, we went into the home that used to be occupied by Job Prickett. The tour guide there told us that there was going to be a free production of Romeo and Juliet in the park amphitheater that night at 8:00. So we decided to come back that evening to watch it. Probably the most famous scene in that play by William Shakespeare is the balcony scene. Juliet is bemoaning the fact that the man that she loves, Romeo, has the wrong last name. He is a Capulet, and Juliet is a Montague. That’s a real problem since the Capulets and Montague’s were enemies. Juliet’s father would have never allowed a relationship between the two lovers. As she thinks about all this, wishing that her beloved would have any last name but Capulet, Juliet says these words: “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”

So far in our study of the Ten Commandments, we have dealt with the first two. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” & “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image [or idol]”. The first asks the question, “Who is going to be the master of your life?” The second asks, “How big is your picture of God?” This morning, we are going to deal with the third commandment – “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” or “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord thy God”. This command and our study of it should cause us to ask ourselves the question, “How much respect do I have for God and His name?” and “What am I doing to bring honor or dishonor on that name?”

Now this is one of those commands that some of you in here can see immediate implications in your own life. Others of you are getting ready to turn down the hearing aid and shut off the brain because you don’t see how this message impacts you. You have a comparatively clean mouth. Well stay with me for a little while because I hope that by the time that we get done this morning, you will see that this impacts more than just your mouth. And I hope that you will also see that we all have some work to do.

There are at least two different areas in which the name of God can be used “in vain”.

1. You can misuse God’s name through your speech.

We’re going to play a little association game. I’m going to say a name, and you think about the first thing that comes into your mind. [Kevorkian, IBM, ACLU, Clinton, Earnhardt, Braves] Names are more than just a way of finding someone in the phone book. Eventually, a person or an organization’s name comes to symbolize the kind of character that that person or organization possesses. How many of you when you were picking names for your children would not give a certain name to your child because every time that you heard that name, it reminded you of someone from your past who was not exactly what you wanted your child to be? I’ve never met a girl named “Jezebel” or a boy named “Judas”. I have a suspicion that the reason for that is because the actions of those persons so marred the name that they carried that no one today wants to use those names. James Williams of Beaumont, TX, promised his wife Cosandra that she could choose the name for their baby girl. "Just before we got married, Cosandra told me that she wanted our child’s first name to contain parts of every family name ever used," said Williams. "I didn’t think it was too great an idea, but I agreed to compromise. We decided I would name the boys and she would name the girls." Early in September Cosandra had a baby girl. The baby is called Jameshauwnell, short for an unpronounceable, 1,019-letter conglomeration of names (as in The Calgary Herald, Sept. 19). Some of us should be very glad about the family that we were born into and the family name that we inherited. One very unfortunate young man was born into the “Stink” family. When he grew into an adult, Charlie Stink was constantly being advised by his friends and co- workers that he should have his name changed. Finally he agreed, and went to court to have the process completed. The next day back at work, his associates inquired, "What did you have your name changed to?" He answered, "for the life of me I can’t see what difference it’s going to make! I changed it to George Stink."

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