‘You Shall Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain’

By Don Wilton   •   May 30, 2013


It is amazing how intricate the human body is. God did this; He created us in His image. In so doing, He made us to look like Him, to love like Him and to live with Him. No wonder the Psalmist said, “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). When Adam and Eve sinned against God, this beautiful fusion between God and His prime creation was shattered. People could no longer look like God, love like God or live with God. This is why the love of God in Christ Jesus is so wonderful.

Jesus Christ came to this earth and gave His life so that all who believe in His name would once again be able to look like God, to love like God and to live with God forever.

And so it is with the tongue. What a small instrument it is compared to the rest of our bodies, but as James 3 tells us, how great a fire can be set ablaze by the words it produces! When God spoke the commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7, NKJV), He was issuing a very serious warning to all people who in any way misuse His name.

Of all the synonyms associated with the taking of God’s name in vain, the one most closely identified is blaspheme. Some others include curse, abuse, profane, desecrate and revile. The bottom line is still the bottom line: God is making it very clear that blasphemy is the use of His name in any way other than to glorify Him alone! This means we can blaspheme by speaking God’s name irreverently and by using God’s name unlovingly.

One can hardly watch a movie these days without hearing God’s name or the name of the Lord Jesus used in this manner. I watched a supposed family movie recently and was once again treated to the repeated use of Jesus’ name as a curse word. Many in our world don’t even think about it anymore. God’s name is used to “inform” Him just how hot the weather is, and by athletes to describe how well they have just run or hit the ball. Beauty pageant contestants cover their mouths in shock as results are announced and proceed to use God’s name to emphasize their joy and triumph. Live microphones catch well-known politicians exchanging ringing criticisms and endorsements accompanied by blasphemies of every kind.

When God issued this commandment to Moses from the top of Mount Sinai, He was not making a suggestion that people merely “soften” or “ramp down” their use of His name in any way other than to glorify Him. He was letting them know just how serious this sin is. Blasphemy is no joke. When God’s name is evoked, this is not the time for a simple “Oops!” Remember, the Bible says He will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name. Perhaps the rampant disregard for the name of our heavenly Father is symptomatic of the serious spiritual condition we find ourselves in today.

This is why we have so much hope in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Taking the Lord’s name in vain is not the unpardonable sin any more than any of the other Ten Commandments are. This sin can be forgiven because the Lord Jesus Christ came and gave His life. This is exactly what the cross is about. Moses was the law-carrier. If you want Moses to run your life, you will be limited by the law instead of by God’s grace. Jesus Christ came not to do away with the law but to fulfill it. This is why it is imperative for you to repent of all sin and trust in Jesus Christ by faith.

The name of God has everything to do with all that God is. When His name is pulled down into the mass of human society, everything pertaining to His unique and sovereign ability is devalued. Think about this for a minute. The Bible tells us in John’s Gospel that Jesus came in the Father’s name (John 5:43), that Jesus performs miracles in the Father’s name (John 10:25), that we can ask anything in His name (John 14:13), and that we are kept safe in His name (John 17:11). In Acts 4:12, we are reminded that there is no other name under Heaven whereby anyone can be saved, and in Philippians 2:10, the Apostle Paul reminds us that it is at the name of Jesus that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

I have always believed this is the reason why everyone, from Hollywood to Wall Street, never uses as blasphemy the name of another person, president or prime minister, bishop, evangelist or religious leader from any religion near or far–only the Lord Jesus Christ. In a strange, reversed sort of way, every time I hear the name of Jesus used as a curse word, I think God is affirming the truth of His Word. He is using the very ones who defame and demean Him to demonstrate that He is the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, NKJV).

This is what blasphemy does: First, it discredits God’s name. Remember, it was the Lord Jesus who taught us to say, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9, NKJV). Second, it denounces God’s character. In the Old Testament, God’s name was written only with consonants so that no one could pronounce it. If God’s name is unpronounceable, and His person is untouchable because of His holiness, how more so is His character unutterable? Third, the misuse of His name crucifies Jesus all over again. Blasphemers are simply allying themselves at the base of the cross alongside all who screamed at Him and demeaned Him. Fourth, it aligns blasphemers with Satan himself. The devil is the one who opposes God in every way and demands to spread the ultimate lie that Jesus is just another ordinary man who can be reviled and spat upon. Fifth, and most serious, blasphemy places a serious question mark on a person’s salvation. All of the commandments have to do with the heart. If our words are a reflection of what is in the heart, then surely a person who knows and loves our Savior cannot utter His name in such a manner.

And, what if you do blaspheme? Here it is again–my hope, your hope, every person’s hope–Jesus Christ loves you. Here are three things you can do. First, look in. Examine your own heart before the Lord Jesus. Next, look out. When you do look out you will see that God is exactly who He says He is–in word, name and deed. And finally, look up. Look into His face and live. He loves you. He died for you. He wants to forgive you. There is hope.  ©2013 Don Wilton

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1984.


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  1. Tristan says:

    I have used His name in vain far too many times than I should have. Reading this helps me remember the He is kind, and He forgives me. God bless you.

  2. kanu murmu says:

    It helped me a lot to understand about spiritual lesson.

  3. Diana says:

    Today I used the Lord’s name in a manner that dishonered Him & the work of the Cross. I was immediately convicted & fear filled my heart. The amazing thing is we serve such a great and merciful God who uses everything for good. In prayer, He made me realise that I have been dishonest, proud, & wicked. He showed me who I truly was – not the person I portray or the person that I thought I was but the real me. For the first time, I truly understood the verse that says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. He showed me that my sin was a reflection of my spiritual state which affects all other aspects of my life. If there is dryness in the spirit, it will maifest in the flesh. I have repented & pray for His wisdom & forgiveness

  4. David Mason says:

    After I had given my life to Jesus a number of years ago, it has become more and more a slap in my face whenever I hear His Sacred Nane blasphemed. Sometimes I try to ignore it but it keeps on gnawing at my soul and I think perhaps the best response to the person is to let them know how much it offends you and to also let them know how much God loves them.

  5. Charles Spangler says:

    I have taken the lord’s name in vain numerous times more than I care to count. I remember thinking that God would never forgive me even though I have asked him to. But after reading your comment on the subject I am thoroughly convinced now I am forgiven and you have no idea what a relief that is. Thank you Jesus, thank you so much. And thank you…God bless you my brother.

  6. Becky Harlow says:

    Thank you! It seems like I cannot find a movie, book, television show or a game where they do not do to that. I don’t know why but every time I hear this it is like a jab to me. I physically cannot stand it. It feels like someone is physically hitting me. Not hard but I feel like I wince when I hear this. I was taught that you do not use his name. The really crazy thing is you will be reading a novel and in one sentence the parent will tell their child “do not curse, I don’t want to hear that come out of your mouth again” and then the next sentence use it themselves. I wanted to tell you I agree with you and in this “Politically Correct” world that it is ok to do this but don’t use Muhammad in a bad way. Thank you

  7. Melinda says:

    My Bible study group had different opinions on what blasphemy meant in Mark 3:28-29. So, for homework we had to do research blasphemy. I found this article and it was very clear to me what blasphemy means. Thank you.

  8. Beverly Stambaugh says:

    Many movies that I have watched and really liked I kind of cringed when they took God’s name or Jesus name in vain. Now (and it sometimes makes me feel said because it’s a movie I like other things about) I am forced to turn it off or not go to see it at the movies. You can review movies for using God’s name before you go. Don’t go. It is a commandment. Personally I am not a censor of other profanities to a point, unfortunately most movies these days include lude acts, almost always take God’s name in vain, and use profanity every other word. It is sad – I am not a fan of the goody two shoes movies that much either. It is sad film makers don’t honor the Lord.

    1. Tristan says:

      I really feel that way as well! I can’t believe that certain people think it’s okay to use the Lord’s name in vain in a movie, much less a children’s movie.

  9. Anna Liddell says:

    Thank you for the reminder of the forgiveness found in Christ. …I accidentally used the Lord’s name in vain and feel just awful and worried I wouldn’t be forgiven

  10. Sharon Lewis says:

    This morning, I turned to Exodus 20 and my eyes immediately fell on the 7th verse. I decided to research the meaning and came up on your article. From time to time, I have been guilty of this “crime” against my Lord. This came as a gentle rebuke and I am so appreciative of you writing in a way that left no doubt that this is a sin that should be repented of and be eradicated immediately. Thank you!!!