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I don’t know when it changed. Sometime, a few years ago, people, including Christians, began replacing exclamations like “Wow!,” “Oh my goodness!,” and other printable and unprintable expressions with “Oh my God!” This has not been a helpful change in American Christendom. It saddens and troubles me to hear it said, but it has pulled the drapes back on our religious superficiality. It exposes the reality that many Christians in the United States do not take the idea and the name of the Lord God Almighty seriously. So, to challenge us to deepen our thinking about the Creator and Savior, I am going to admonish Christians to stop using this expression and explain why.

This is the Lord’s third commandment to His people: “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).1

Perhaps the way the New Century Version translates it will bring it a little closer to home: “You must not use the name of the LORD your God thoughtlessly; the LORD will punish anyone who misuses his name.”2

There’s a little more fear in that rendering, isn’t there?

Now, I know that some readers may balk at this. They will claim that we are not to be subject to fear. Respect God, yes. But fear Him? Not so much. However, it is difficult to ignore truths like these:

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4–5).

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10).

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).

Both love and fear are characteristics in the lives of those who desire to know God. It is up to believers to find the balance between loving God and fearing Him, but both attributes must be present in a vibrant and genuine Christian life.

Perhaps it appears that I am advocating behavioral legalism when I encourage the cessation of a behavior. Not so. I reject Christian perfectionism and legalism. But I do not reject God’s laws. No, I love God’s laws. They reveal His heart and character. However, His laws are obeyed from the inside out, not from the outside only. We obey because we love Him. This is critical. If love for our God is not our motivation, we become loveless, unmerciful, death-dealing legalists.

God, whose name we toss around so thoughtlessly, created everything that exists. He created the one who takes His name in vain. He is aware of such a person’s heartbeat, each thought, each breath. He knows that obedience to His laws brings life and that disobedience to them, sin, brings spiritual death in some manner or another. He commands us because He loves us. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). He said this because we do not know how to be His friend. He must tell us.

This same God loves the one who carelessly blurts out His name. He offered Himself in sacrifice for the one who, unthinking, uses His name to express his or her happiness about a plate of nachos. To echo James, “My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10).

Let us repent and ask for forgiveness. Let’s think about our Savior and Creator when we speak His name and ask for His help to do so. Let us do all things to please Him.

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10).


1Unless noted otherwise, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2The Everyday Bible: New Century Version. (2005). (Ex 20:7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Gif courtesy Bing images.


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