If you have ever watched any of the TV shows where a decorator or home makeover specialist removes the blindfold to reveal the finished product to the homeowner you are very familiar with their usual initial response … “OH MY GOD!!” The phrase is often repeated over and over as the entourage makes its way through the home. Personally, I am saddened every time I hear that phrase.
I was raised in the southern United States of America in The Bible Belt in a more innocent time than present today. I was taught by my parents, teachers, and church leaders that such language was not acceptable for a Christian. Doing such was taking the Lord’s name in vain, a violation of The Ten Commandments. I was also taught that cursing was crude and certain combinations of curse words were blasphemous, and after speaking such, you should admit your transgression in prayer and ask God for forgiveness. Parents often resorted to the “soap in the mouth” punishment as a reminder of the transgression and the real life consequence of the “dirty” language.
Truthfully, this teaching was sometimes ignored when I was not around my parents or church friends and simply in the presence of the “boys.” Teenagers are good at speaking one language around their parents and church friends, and using another “slang” language entirely when they are around their peers. Admittedly, I was fairly good at that for a few of my teenage years. Eventually I was convicted of my dual language personality and asked God to forgive me and help me to overcome what had become a very bad habit. Happily, God helped me and I have spent more than the last fifty years practicing “clean” and Godly language.
Modern day teenagers and young people were the first to quickly adopt social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., when it was first introduced. Parents and grandparents were not early adopters but eventually joined in the parade so they could keep up with what their offspring were saying and doing in their more private moments. To avoid unwanted snooping and eavesdropping, adopters developed a slang language using cryptic shorthand and abbreviations to convey their feelings, emotions and other messages. Parents did not know the shorthand and thus were only able to understand parts of the message. Now there are thousands of slang internet terms and there are even dictionaries that will explain the meaning in everyday language. “OMG,” short for “Oh My God!” quickly became part of the early internet slang language. Sadly, “Oh My God!” is so often used now that hardly anyone, even devout Christians, realize that those using the term either verbally or in internet slang are breaking the third of The Ten Commandments and may be guilty of the sin of blasphemy.
Scripture: (all ESV unless otherwise noted)
The Ten Commandments
And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “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. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder.[c] 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
So, what does it mean to “take the name of the Lord your God in vain?” I like John Piper’s explanation. Piper explains that the idea of vanity is involved. Behind the command is the admonition that when we do this we “empty the name.” It is not about the tone of the voice nor the circumstances about which the phrase is used. It is “speaking of God in a way that empties Him of His significance.” This includes useless words and phrases such as “God!”, “Oh God!” or “Jesus Christ” with or without accompanying words such as “Oh My ____!, God ____!, etc.” It is not just using swear words along with the name of God or Jesus. We are commanded not to defame God’s name by referring to Him in “cheap, low and insignificant ways that just treat Him like a commodity.”
“God, (Jesus) Christ, the cross, His majesty, His great works, His loving kindness (mercy), and the things He did are great, and they’re weighty. And there’s a certain corresponding demeanor of worship that should be there.” Christians, especially, are to “revere God, love God, delight in God, know God, fill up God with all that He is. And then out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak.”
Dr. David Jeremiah says in his Study Bible (NKJV) “this third commandment is based on the sacredness of God’s Holy name, Yahweh. In vain means to regard as having no worth. The name of the Lord should never be used manipulatively (Num 22:18), caustically, crudely, or casually, because it trivializes the character and work of (Almighty) God.
Many have classified the Ten Commandments as the “Ten Dont’s.” Rather than focus on the negative (don’t) side, we should instead focus on praising and revering the name of God in all of the fullness of His glory … not on emptying His name of its full weight and glory.
Some ten thousand slang internet expressions now exist and there are even dictionaries online that list the “translation” for such terms. Most are completely innocent, but many are offensive to those who claim Christ as Savior. Some of the slang expressions are sexually suggestive (i.e., SMEXI is “Smart and Sexy”; DURS is “Da_n, You Are Sexy”) and even pornographic (i.e., CFNM “clothed female, naked male”; and many others too graphic for me to list) in nature.
So, Christian, will you make it a matter of prayer to honor the name of God rather than join the fad and trivialize His name by using such terms as “OMG” and “Oh My God!.” As you share messages on the internet, think about what you are saying when you use internet slang. Instruct your children on this topic and monitor their posts so that they will also honor the name of God instead of using it as part of a slang term which borders on blasphemy. What Christian parent would want their teenager and/or their pre-teen involved in this type of behavior?
I can only imagine where the shameful and callous use of God’s name will ultimately lead our society. In today’s politically correct and politically charged world, Christians are ridiculed and pushed aside in favor of those who loudly advocate alternate lifestyles, abortion, same-sex marriage. I’m not sorry about what I know to be true … God will not be mocked!
The Bible clearly demonstrates throughout its pages, those who claim to be Christians and willfully participate in mocking His commands and God Himself will suffer earthly and eternal consequences. It is easy to claim you are a Christian. Claiming is not enough. Consider these verses … direct words of Jesus Himself: 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).
If you unsure about your salvation or your relationship to God, I urge you to read further on “Become A Christian.”
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- Sin’s Earthly Consequences
- When a : (colon) is not a colon – Medical Update
- Moving On – In Accordance With God’s Will
- If I Were The Devil
- From Persecutor to Persecuted
- The Spindly Grapevine
- Our Source of Courage
- Be Strong in The Lord
- God is Faithful
- Our Comforter
- God Will Provide
- In His Time
- God’s Solution for Anxiety
- Facing Tough Times
- Is Anything too Hard for God?
- Do Not Fear
- An Anchor in the Time of the Storm
- His Grace is Sufficient for Me
- Become A Christian
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I can’t tell you what this post means to me! I thought I was alone regarding my thoughts on this. I have all but stopped watching the HGTV Home Makeover shows because I can’t stand to hear one more person use the Lord’s name as an exclamation. However, I find it sadder still when friends at church do the same. I attend a nondenominational Bible church with verse by verse teaching of various books of the Bible, so the Word is being taught! It pops out of friends’ mouths…friends who I know are believers and love the Lord. Could it be they do not know or realize that they are doing it? I have heard sermons on taking God’s name in vain, but most often applied to other ways and never using God’s name as a common expletive. I generally say nothing, while cringing inside as asking for the Lord to forgive them. What would be a better way to handle this type of situation?
I can’t wait to delve into your Names of God posts. My husband & I are doing legacy Bibles for our 3 grandchildren. The Bibles are “journaling” Bibles (with lines in the margins). We are going through the Bibles and underlining verses we pray for the kids & also writing encouraging notations. I am also going to be going to verses that mention various names of God and note what the name means & what that name tells us about God’s character. We’re adding tidbits of info and prayers we pray for them inserting their names. We hope to give them to them when they turn 13.
02/03/2016 @ 10:21 AM
From Don Hattaway via email
Thank you for the article. You are exactly right!
02/03/2016 @ 9:39 AM (1 hour ago)
From Dr. Nelson Price via eMail.
“My dear brother Jim. Thanks for your enriching inspirational writings. Knowing Christ alive in you two has been a blessing since the good day we met. Keep up the good ministry.”
Agreeing with the comments regarding use of ANY combination of actual words or slang substitutes for GOD. As the Apostle Paul reminded us in 1 Cor 8:13 and Rom 14:21 we should be mature enough to forego doing or saying something which might cause another to stumble.
Blessings to you my brother, thanks for sharing your heart. Ps. 115:1
Thank you for reading and commenting my brother. This has really been on my heart so often lately. Perhaps it is because of my own sin in not being more outspoken (in a loving way) when I hear terms like this used so unthinkingly … even by our Christian brothers and sisters. May God bless you and Sherry. Jim
Jim, Great article! You are right on target. Thank you for addressing this important subject. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.
Don, this is such a misunderstood sin … So easily committed, so easily denied. Hope you, your family and your church family have a Merry Christmas! Jim
Dec 23, 2013 from Jim D. – Here is some dialogue from Facebook relative to this post that I thought would be appropriate to add to the comments section of this post.
X1 – I’m with you I can’t stand to hear “oh my God’ use that way. when I use OMG I am saying oh my gosh.
X2 – I know .. I try to write OMGosh, or maybe it should be an understood omg because no matter what you intend, readers will interpret oh to my God
Jim Davenport – Please don’t think me a prude, but using words such as ‘gosh’ is merely a substitute for “God”. I know that is not a popular viewpoint but the Christian should avoid ALL appearance of evil according to scripture. We are not to act and speak as the wo…See More
X2 – this is true !!!
X3 – If you look in the dictionary, gosh and golly are slang for God. I’m sure grieves our all knowing God. In psalms this phrase, OMG, is used over and over. But it’s a deep pouring out to our heavenly Father. I’ve used one of the Psalms with this phrase in a song. It feels purely a prayer from my heart. However, I am like you, it is not part of my daily language as that use IS dishonoring to what’s most important to me – my God whom I humbly seek to please, not dishonor.
Jim Davenport – A loving explanation. I have a long history that I could publish, but won’t now (maybe later in one of my blogs), on how such substitute terms became a part of every day vernacular. X3, you are absolutely right. When properly spoken, the phrase Oh My God, can be a call to God … an honor to God … a tribute to the power of God … etc. … but it is seldom that this is the intent of the one using that term. The Devil has his way of twisting our minds to accept sin as the norm. This is particularly true in our everyday language. We are so easily deceived as humans. It hasn’t been that long since all curse words and foul language was banned from our airways. Now, it is “Katy Bar the Door” as freewheeling radio and tv personalities regularly use God’s name in vain and other crude language is constantly used and swallowed by the gullible public. This is serious business and should not be trivialized. As I have said many times, God will not be mocked!! Galatians 6:7-9 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Jim D.
Jim, glad to see this post came together. Thanks for sharing the truth of Scripture, the insights from John Piper and David Jeremiah, your testimony, and your conviction. I treasure your insights on this topic … and we are teaching our grandson these same truths. May God be glorified! Bernie
Bernie, silence on this topic by Christians plays right into the hands of those who are trying to destroy the message of Jesus. My purpose the rest of my days here is to boldly proclaim the truths of the Bible while praying that this small voice might influence others to do the same. One by one is the only way we can turn the direction of our depraved society, void of God, around. Jim D.