As a child, I did not understand this commandment, and frankly not many adults who taught me it understood it.
- “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 RSV
Now I have come to understand what the meaning of vanity is, so the above commandment becomes quite clear. If we take His name in a meaningless fashion, for example, as an expletive, then we have sinned against His name.
Every reality TV show you have accidentally consumed is intoxicated with expletives such as, “Oh my God!,” “Jesus Christ!,” and other vain uses. People drop these expletives in normal conversation as if they are more acceptable than an outright curse word, but I personally believe they are worse. Sure, curse words are purely animal-rage emotion words which we would all do well to purge ourselves of, but to use the Lord’s name in the same connotation as a curse word seems far worse to me.
If, for example, “Holy crap!” would fit just as well, then we are violating this commandment.
Further, Christ speaks of swearing oaths:
- “But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from the Evil One.” – Matthew 5:34-37
I hear far too often vanities such as, “I swear to God!” This is nothing more than an expletive and not a real vow.
This is such an easy commandment to break, perhaps easier than the other nine; it does not help that many people, even Christians, hardly ever utter the word “God” in a genuine fashion, in which “God” is an object of the sentence. If we are not speaking about God in some way, then we have no business carelessly speaking His name.