Take a look at this Old Testament commandment:
Exodus 20:7 (KJV) Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain…
Or maybe more clearly translated in the Literal Standard Version:
“You do not take up the Name of your God YHWH for a vain thing…”
Although this is an Old Testament commandment, most people believe that this commandment was intended to prohibit the use of God’s literal name as an exclamation in conversation. For instance, when people say, “For God’s sake,” “Oh my God,” “Gosh Darn” (you can read between the lines), or “Jesus.”
On the other hand, most people seem perfectly fine with exclamations such as “Good Lord,” or “Lord Jesus,” or the like. I’m not sure why.
All of this may seem trivial, but this is actually an important topic. The interpretation of this verse is based on a complete misunderstanding — a misunderstanding that is easily disproven if we look at scripture. That is, if we are willing to let go of years of teaching for the sake of scripture. Not everyone is willing to do that, because it doesn’t always feel comfortable at first.
The Traditional View
For starters, let’s take the traditional view of that commandment. If we’re going to believe something, we should have lots of biblical evidence for it, right? So where does the Bible say that this commandment refers to using God’s name in an exclamation? Although Christian’s would say that it is perfectly acceptable to say “Good God” in church (if you really mean it), they would then say that it is blasphemy to say “Good God” in a day-to-day exclamation. Apparently saying “Good God” is evil if you don’t mean it, despite it being absolutely true. Was that God’s intention with this commandment? If so, is there any biblical evidence for that?
Truthfully, nowhere in the Bible does it explain this commandment that way — where God cannot be used in an exclamation. That may bother some people’s conscience, and although I’m not trying to do so, we need more than just years of teaching to support our claims. We need biblical proof — not just the word of our pastor.
Here’s the truth of how the Bible explains “taking the name of the Lord as a vain thing.”
What Is Vanity?
Firstly, let’s mention that the word “vain” means “falsely or worthless.” That is the literal definition of the Hebrew word used in Exodus. So, when Exodus 20:7 says “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain…” he is literally saying you should not speak of the Lord’s name falsely or with worthlessness. That’s what “vain” means.
What Is A Name?
Now here’s the biggest point of the article: Let’s let the Bible itself define what it means when it speaks about the “name” of God.
A name, as you will see from scripture is speaking about someone’s reputation, what they’re known as, their identity. Even “our name” is said to be spoken of with evil. See here:
Luke 6:22 (KJV) Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.
This says that men would use our name with evil. Now I am asking this sincerely: Is this talking about people using our name — like Jack, Peter, Joe, or Lucy — in a curse word? Is this talking about people using your literal name in an exclamation? As in “Oh Lucy!” or “Gosh Peter!” Of course, we would think that to be a silly interpretation of this verse.
This verse is quite clearly talking about people speaking evil of our reputation — tarnishing our reputation, our identity, or our good “name.”
And when it comes to the Lord’s name, it is very common, in the Bible, to see that the Lord will do things “for His name’s sake.”
Psalms 79:9 (KJV) Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake.
Again, I submit to you, is this referring to God doing something for the benefit of the spelling of His name, G-O-D? Or is this saying that God would do things for His reputation’s sake?
The truth is, when the Bible talks about God doing things for His names sake, it is referring to His reputation, not the spelling or pronunciation of His literal name, G-O-D. When the Bible says demons are cast out in Jesus’ name, it is saying they are cast out because of who Jesus is (Mark 16:17). When the Bible says that only the name of Jesus saves, it is saying that who Jesus is saves, and none other. It is His reputation that saves — not the name J-E-S-U-S that saves (Acts 4:12). Otherwise there would be power and salvation, even when you uttered the name of your Spanish friend Jesús. But we know that this is not true, because J-E-S-U-S has no power, only the reputation of the Messiah, Jesus does.
Uttering the name G-O-D or J-E-S-U-S has no power at all. The devil utters those names, unbelievers utter those names, and as I said, your hispanic friend may have the same name as well. There is no power in it. And having said that there is no power in those literal names, there is also nothing blasphemous about uttering those names in a truthful way — whether it is an exclamation or not.
The thing that is wrong, which the commandment refers to, is using the reputation of God falsely or as a worthless thing. This commandment is referring to lying about who God is or attributing worthlessness to His reputation. This commandment has nothing to do with the exclamatory use of the literal name “G-O-D”, but lying about His reputation.
We honestly believe that there is something sacred about the way you spell or pronounce the literal name of God. The truth is, however you pronounce it, in whatever language you say it, or whether you use it in an exclamation or at church, the words themselves are not important in the slightest. The only important thing is, are you speaking the truth about His reputation (His name)? That is the only important thing. There is nothing sacred in the words themselves.
2 Timothy 2:14 (NKJV) Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.
The funny thing is many people who are so strict about not using the word G-O-D in an exclamation, are some of the very ones attributing falsehood to the reputation of God. And that is what matters — whether they know who He is and do not lie about His reputation, understanding all that He has done for the world.
Exodus 20:7 (LSV) You do not take up the Name [the reputation] of your God YHWH for a vain thing…
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