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  • Writer's pictureAsk Pastor Adrienne

Speak God’s Name With Caution


Dear Pastor,

On the subject of taking God’s name in vain: What does that mean, exactly? Also: Is it his name or title?


Some of us still hear the scolding voices of our grandmothers wagging a finger at our nose and yelling, “Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain!” She addressed one of the Ten Commandments written down by Moses regarding the protocol for how we must speak God’s name. Here is the scripture, which is the third commandment: “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” (Exodus 20:7, NASB1995.) Discussing God is one thing—using his name as an expletive, is another. Whether it is God’s title or his name, we are to abstain from speaking it unless we seek his attention or to give him honor. While most of us have heard or studied the first part of this verse, which issues caution, we often forget the last half, which is a clear warning. To speak God’s name in a disrespectful or careless way brings divine consequences, even punishment.

Hopefully, Christians cringe when we hear the name “Jesus Christ” evoked in anger or surprise. And this happens frequently in our world today. We may wince inside as the Holy Spirit within us responds to abuse. We inherently know when the Lord’s name is misused: without thought, like a cuss word, with disrespect for the one who wears the title “King of Kings and Lord of Lords;” tattooed on his thigh, according to Revelation 19:16. There is power released on earth when Christ’s name is spoken. That’s a fact. There are countless recordings of proof that Jesus’ name saves people, heals people and affects the atmosphere whenever it is evoked. Using it carelessly is both ignorant and arrogant. Jesus is God, so calling on him is never a good idea unless you mean it.

Yet, the word “God” is also a title; a general term. Each religion has a god of some type, and he, she or it is given a specific name in each case. Jehovah Witnesses call their god, “Jehovah” (not to be confused with the Christian God of the same name.) Muslim’s call him “Allah.” Mormon’s have “Joseph Smith” as their exalted one. Satanists have “Satan” as their supreme being, and so on. Only in the Christ-based faith does the name of God carry the power to heal, save and rescue. If you’ve studied the Christian principles of blessing and cursing, then you know why this is a tender subject to the Lord Jesus.

Christ created the world by speaking it into existence, according to Genesis 1:3 and the first chapter of the Book of John. God’s mouth and words are therefore full of intense power. All people are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) so, like him, we are then equipped with the same power to create or destroy; to bless or curse one another; to bless or curse God. James, Jesus’ half-brother, explains: “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (James 3:8-10.) Our words are weighty and powerful. Speaking Christ’s name carries even more weight and meaning with it.

I’m afraid I’ve complicated your questions, but I hope I’ve not confused you. You’re asking me about something we don’t discuss often enough in Christian circles, and yet it is one of the sacred commandments. The bottom line is that our God is worthy of respect. Even his name deserves special treatment.

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