“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” (Exod 20:7).
Violating the Third Commandment is really all about not treating God’s name as holy. It is about mis-representing a God whose name is supposed to be holy. And in some ways it is about using God’s holy name for our unholy purposes.
So how do we represent the name of God, or NOT take His name in vain?
We can represent God’s name with our life’s allegiance. You could say, “Do not profess you are like God and put Him on in some way outwardly, but inwardly have no evidence of Him.” To do such a thing is to take His name in vain. To wear or adorn yourself in some way that God’s holy name was not meant to be worn would be a serious offense. In a sense, any sin is a mis-representation of who God is supposed to be and every sin violates some part of His character (e.g., Lying is a sin against His truthfulness. Coveting is a sin against His gracious provisions. Laziness is a sin against God’s omnipotence.). If something bears God’s name, it deserves our best. To represent God means our allegiance is given to Him and Him alone. It is practically proving there are no other competitors or no other lords. He is not half-Lord; that is a contradiction in terms. He does not share His responsibilities with any others. So we represent God by showing our allegiance to Him.
We can represent God’s name with the power of our integrity. The word “vain” means “unreal” or “nothingness” or “false.” It refers to adding some emptiness to God’s name. It would seem the commandment could be understood this way: do not make God something He is not. Let me say this as clearly as I can: taking the Lord’s name in vain is not just about profanity! When God gave this commandment to Moses, He wasn’t thinking about 4-letter words and vulgar language that we equate to a violation of this commandment. If that were so, He would have stated this commandment very differently. He might say, “You shall not speak dishonoring language” or “You shall not utter words of evil.” Remember this Commandment is about not representing God in the right manner. We can take His name in vain by breaking an oath with God (Deut 31:21-23), having a wrong view of God (Jer 23), by using God’s name for personal gain, by engaging in hypocritical worship (Isa 29:13), by not acknowledging God for His working, by living hypocritically, etc.
We can represent God’s name by fearing Him. In Acts 4, we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira. They had made some type of commitment publicly that they would give their monies to the church and they didn’t. That was their sin. They were hypocrites. They had more regard for the laws of man than those of God, for His fear is not before their eyes. They had taken the name of the Lord in vain, because they misrepresented Him. Their consequence? Death (vs. 5-6).
God is serious about those who take his name in vain. It is unwise to trifle with the things of God. It is up to us to preserve the name of God. It is us to represent Him in a holy manner. God is looking for people who will protect, defend and herald his name. Is His name safe with you?