“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.”
Today we shall discuss The Third Commandment which prohibits the taking of the name of the Lord in vain. Vain, in this context, means “empty, worthless, thoughtless, careless, etc.” Therefore, when we use the Lord’s name in a worthless and/or careless way, we are breaking the Third Commandment. The Jewish people sought to avoid breaking this Commandment by not even using His name. If this sounds odd, it is because it is! We are instructed in Psalm 105:1 and Isaiah 12:4 to “give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name.” How can we call upon His name if we never use it? The Third Commandment does not call us to avoid His name, but to think of His name, speak His name, and worship Him with the reverence and awe due to His name. In this sermon we shall discuss how we sinfully take His name in vain in our thoughts and our speech; along with how we can give His name the honor and praise it deserves.
You take the name of the Lord in vain when you think of Him without admiration and awe. A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.” Psalm 94:11 says, “The Lord—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.” Psalm 139:2 says, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.” The Bible makes it clear to us that God knows our every thought and holds us accountable for how we think about His name.
Angry and Antagonistic
Some people take God’s name in vain when they think of Him with contempt and hatred. When they think of God their thoughts are angry and hostile. There could be many reasons they give, but they are committing sin against God in their thoughts and God will hold them accountable to the judgment. If they persist in their sinful rebellion against God, they will be “thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15). Since they decided to revile God and have not been born again, they will spend eternity away from God. It is understandable (yet lamentable) that a non-believer could have contempt for God, but it is unconscionable for a self-professed Christian to think of God in such a way.
Uncaring and Indifference
Some people take God’s name in vain when they are apathetic about God. They may not be hostile, but consider this question very carefully: “Is God pleased with my disinterest?” I believe we know the answer because He rebuked the church of Laodicea for being lukewarm (Rev 3:16). While many non-believers are indifferent towards God (with the rest hating Him), sadly far too many Christians are apathetic about God. They may not even be truly saved. Some are truly saved (and glad!) but have become so distracted by the world that they spend little time and energy in the Word and in prayer praising and thanking Him. They are not delighted or awed by Jesus Christ and are “useless and unfruitful” (2 Peter 1:8) with a hidden talent (Luke 19:11-27). Maybe you would never dream of thinking of God with contempt, but are your thoughts of God indifferent?
You take the name of the Lord in vain when you speak of Him without honor and reverence. Jesus said, “I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt 12:36-37). The Bible makes it clear to us that God knows every word that comes out of our mouth and holds us accountable for how we use His name.
Curses and Dishonesty
Some people take God’s name in vain when they use it as a curse word: either cursing God or others. There are many people who blaspheme God’s name on a regular basis. It is possible to take the Lord’s name in vain when you invoke it as a cover for your dishonesty. The Lord takes this sin very seriously. Closely linked to this is using the name of the Lord irreverently, mocking the Lord and expressing disgust to Him and about Him. Examples are intentionally not given. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3).
Coldness and Apathy
There are some people who would never dream of cursing God, but nevertheless take His name in vain when they speak of God with indifference and apathy. This may not be as antagonistic as cursing, but it is nonetheless sinful. This springs out of a lack of zeal for the Lord and vain thoughts of God. Related to this is the flippant use of God’s name in a Christian’s daily life. This should convict us to be careful with how we use the name of the Lord. If we say we will pray for someone, we must pray for them. What better time than at that moment? When we pray, are we actually talking to God or are we talking about God for others to hear? Our mealtime prayers do not need to last long enough for the food to turn cold but should actually be prayers of thanksgiving and praise to the One who provides all we have. Let us never take the name of the Lord in vain.
It is important that we do not take the name of the Lord in vain. How we do that is very simple. You need to hear Jesus’ message to the church at Sardis: “you have left your first love” (Rev 2:4). You need to repent of your hostility or apathy towards God and you need more Jesus! Remember who He is and what He has done. Worship Him. Praise Him. Thank Him. Exalt Him. Delight in Him. Let Him be your greatest treasure and fervently serve Him. Let “Give me Jesus” be your cry as you understand that nothing compares to Him. If everything you hold dear was taken away and you still had Christ would you be able to say, “It is well with my soul?” Worship Him and delight yourself in Him forever.