The Third Commandment: ways to take God's name in vain you might not have thought of

Our glorious Lord Jesus Christ left His glory in heaven and came down to us. (Philippians 2:5-8). This was because of His great love for man and that He desired to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10).

To that end, our precious Christ lived among us us, lived among sin while not sinning Himself. He taught, He healed, He exorcised, He performed miracles. He discipled, He interceded, He obeyed the Father's will.

Jesus spent all of His ministry hours, when not praying and rarely sleeping enough, to teach us. That is doctrine.
The word "doctrine" comes from the Greek word "didaskolos," and it basically means "teaching." It is used many times in the New Testament. Doctrine is extremely important in Christianity. By it we know who God is, what He has done, what the Trinity is, the deity of Christ, His resurrection, salvation, justification, etc. Doctrine is what defines the who's and what's of Christianity. In fact, you can't be saved without doctrine. Rev. Matt Slick,
He did all this because He loved us. But beyond that, Jesus did it because He loves the Father, He was obeying the Father. Jesus at all times and in all moments sought the glory of the Father. (John 7:18). God's glory was primary in the redemption plan.

Jesus' work was to glorify the Father on earth. (John 7:14).

Now, having the right view of God is of utmost importance, beginning with Who He is. We cannot give Him the glory He deserves if we have a terribly flawed view of Him. One of the most basic ways we know Him is by His Name.

God protects His name. It is the name filled with all authority, all holiness, and when manifested on earth to be seen by men, filled with glory. So God made a commandment for us to never misuse His name. In Exodus 20 God commanded,

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)

There are two things I'd like to look at regarding the name of God and its use today.

Colton Burpo, the boy who 'went to heaven' & whose experience is the basis
for the book Heaven is For Real, irreverently describing "God" as "really big"
and "looks like the archangel Gabriel." source
Modern Christianity has trivialized God to the point where many see Him as a distant boyfriend, a prosperous ATM machine, an entertaining miracle maker, or a heavenly hospital. Man's view of God has always been flawed (and it always will be to some degree, even in true Christians while we're on earth, because we're still flawed with sin) but even at that, taking utmost care not to misuse God's name should be a primary focus in Christian life. After all, it is the third commandment! It all begins with how we use His name.

Names have power, they have authority, they mean something. What if your boss habitually mispronounces your name, wouldn't that irk you? What if the Bureau of Motor Vehicles misspelled your name, isn't that annoying? Even more, a misspelled name may have legal implications. When a relative insists on shortening the name of your child from Michael to Mike or from Elizabeth to Betsy, don't you correct him?
Incident occurred in 1991.
Above CC photo from 2009

If we as puny humans fuss over the spelling or pronunciation of our name, how do you think God feels about His name? His is the highest name! (Philippians 2:9). The only name! (Acts 4:12)

Right, Swaggart's blasphemy is especially egregious because he used the Lord's name to make Him complicit in covering up Swaggart's adultery and fornication.

Many people regularly violate the third commandment by taking God's name in vain. They use it in a swear, they say 'OMG', they use it to show their amazement over an extra large ice cream cone. Trivial.

But that is not only what it means not to take God's name in vain. In our Sunday School lesson last week, written by JD Greear and Trevin Wax, there are other ways to take God's name one may not have considered. This is the first point. Taking God's name in vain does not begin and end with 'OMG'. Not by far. In the lesson Mr Greear and Mr Wax narrow in and focus on three other ways to take God's name in vain:

1. Using God's name flippantly
2. Using God's name untruthfully
3. Using God's name hypocritically

Left, In the preface, Moore says while she was writing the book God wouldn't let her eat breakfast. Also, if she had not written the book the "rocks in my yard would have cried out". So she said,"I entrust this message entirely to the One who delivered it while I sat bug-eyed." p. xi.

I'd like to speak to #1, using God's name flippantly. In the lesson the men spoke to the above, the often spoken OMG or swearing that has God's name in it. However the authors also said, "Perhaps the danger we as Christians must be careful of is not cursing but trivializing God's name by speaking of Him on too-familiar terms." They advise against a careless approach to speaking of God.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29).

"Too-familiar" terms. That is surely an issue in this day and age. The fear of the Lord in believers is a bygone notion. It shouldn't be.

I will use a real-life example of something Beth Moore recently said to show that she uses God's name in vain, because she uses His name flippantly.

At a recent conference for women, Moore ended it by a usual method she employs in her performance, a call-and-response. She often tells the women attending to repeat after her. What is asked to be repeated are not usually bible verses but creeds and mottoes Moore has invented. Here is an example from the Unwrap the Bible Conference,
Be confident this great day  That your God has chosen you
Please understand that this kind of message is often spoken at her conferences and in her teaching. It is not just one instance one time, but a pattern of presuming to speak for God.

If we unpack this and apply it to the prohibition not to take the Lord's name in vain, how can we reconcile a female teacher presuming to know that 11,000 women in attendance have been chosen by God? And worse, to tell them so, in God's name?! What Moore is actually saying is that she knows God's thoughts and she knows His plans- for each of the 11,000 women of whom she was speaking this creed with God's name in it. We cannot say such things, and we should not! This is taking the Lord's name in vain.

But there is a worse problem. Yes it is very bad for Beth Moore or Kim Smith or Jimmy Swaggart or Colton Burpo or any person to speak of God on too-familiar terms, imputing thoughts to Him He didn't have, and relating doctrines He didn't teach. Those are serious breaches of God's law.

But it is a sin for the hearers, too.

This is point #2. We know the bible says that false teachers will have a condemnation upon them. (Jude 1:4). For all teachers (true and false) who teach the word, they are judged more strictly. (James 3:1). Again, it relates to God's holy name not being taken in vain. But the hearers are also judged!

There are two scriptures I have in mind to show you this. First we turn to the familiar verse I mention often, in Revelation 2:20. This is where the Lord has something against the people in the church at Thyatira: they tolerated the false prophetess Jezebel and by their inaction allowed her to seduce His servants. The sin of inaction is still a sin.

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. (James 4:17).

However we go even further. We read in Leviticus 24:11,13-16a the following-

and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. ... Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death.

Notice the distinction in verse 11, the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the Name and he cursed the Name. In the Hebrew the word for blaspheme used in this verse means "to utter a curse against, curse." You might argue that Beth Moore and other false teachers don't outright curse against God. You're right, they don't. However look at the second charge made against the woman's son. He cursed. The Hebrew word used in this case means "to trivialize" or to be slight or swift about the Name. To lighten it.
The chief lesson to be learned from this incident and from the law here given is very plain. It is the high criminality in God’s sight of all irreverent use of His holy name... [failure to act] cannot but operate most fatally by breaking down in the public conscience that profound reverence toward God, which is the most essential condition of the maintenance of all private and public morality. ~William Robertson Nicoll, Expositor's Bible, 1888
Kim Smith of Jesus Culture describing her vision of seeing
God the Father at a table making a clay heart for Kim. source
When Moore or other false teachers teach, they often empty out God's name by trivializing it. They purport to speak for God. They relate dreams and retell things that God supposedly told them. They make pronouncements about His thoughts and intentions. They are casual about His holy name.

Now look at the penalty. The person who cursed His name is stoned. But why did the hearers who heard the cursing have to lay hands on the man's head? Because they were transferring their guilt from themselves to the blasphemer. In the case of the cursing His name, not only the one who speaks it is guilty, but the hearers are too.

James Burton Coffman in his commentary on the Leviticus 24 verse said,
God's concern here was to remove a spot of deadly infection from the body of the Chosen People. Harford called it a "purgative" action. If not eradicated, a cancerous condition of the kind associated with profane cursing would indeed have destroyed the whole nation. Men are no longer much concerned about such things, but the growth of the cancer has already corrupted a major portion of our present society.
That was Jesus' charge to the congregation at Thyatira, they tolerated false pronouncements purported to be said in His name by a prophetess teaching falsely. They did NOT purge it out. (I wonder what Jesus will say to the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention when He brings up Beth Moore's false prophecies and erroneous teaching...and that not only did they tolerate them but LifeWay made money off them...)

It is my opinion that the seriousness of taking the Lord's name in vain is one important reason "not many of you should seek to be teachers" (James 3:1). To teach falsely is not just to teach error mixed with truth. It is also to

1. Use God's name flippantly (Example, Beth Moore)
2. Use God's name untruthfully (Example, Kim Smith)
3. Use God's name hypocritically (Example, Jimmy Swaggart)

In remembering the Hebrews 12 verse, acceptable worship means remembering who He is, no matter how loving we feel toward Him, and no matter how boldly we come to the throne, (Hebrews 4:16), we must fear Him by worshiping in reverence and awe.

Now of course I am not agitating to re-institute lex talionis, an eye for an eye, the law of retaliation. Nor am I wanting to see false teachers stoned. Jesus will repay. He is well aware of the damage done in His holy name and He will perfectly and justly recompense all for their deeds. (Isaiah 59:18, Romans 2:6). This essay is about the importance of His holy Name and the various ways we take it in vain. Read Leviticus 24:10-16, and read Deuteronomy 17:1-7 to see how seriously God takes it when an idolater mishandles anything about Himself, and the guilt that is upon the hearers too.

In Deuteronomy God charged the people with the task of inquiring diligently when they hear of an idolatrous situation, and if found guilty, the laying on of hands again to "purge the evil from among your midst." (Deuteronomy 17:7).  And in the New Testament, Revelation 2:20, the church at Thyatira..."I have this against you, that you tolerate..."

God is adamant that His name be used in truthful and honorable ways. ~Greear, Wax "The Gospel Project for Adults"


  1. A lot of my Facebook friends are Christians. Others are not Christian but consider themselves spiritual. And some have no religious or spiritual persuasion that I can tell. Yet all three of these groups post a lot of the same blurbs from Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, as well as "speaking for God" type stuff from unnamed authors that tells us what God says or God wants without scriptural reference. The fact that both Christian and non-Christian friends post this stuff is disturbing and points to the lack of discernment on the part of my Christian friends.

  2. "(I wonder what Jesus will say to the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention when He brings up Beth Moore's false prophecies and erroneous teaching...and that not only did they tolerate them but LifeWay made money off them...)"

    Valuable food for thought, there. And good not to fall into a trap of thinking the SBC is the greatest thing just because it's one of the more theologically sound denominations on the level of its spiritual leadership.

  3. Funny ~ been doing my own personal study of this as well, Elizabeth! I do my best to avoid being around those who constantly claim or exclaim, OMG.... bothers my spirit too much. I even looked up what it means to take God's name in vain (agree with all your points) but it also said that when we put something EMPTY with His name as well.

    Maybe sounds funny to some, but "Everybody Loves Raymond" is one of my all time favorite funny sitcoms when I'm just needing to chill and laugh!! HOWEVER, that show chronically spouts OMG at every turn..... so now I'm convicted to not watch it any more. Like I say may sound like a "small" thing, yet I think we should revere God's name that much!!.... even in the every day, small things!

    And God's "last name" is not damn either! Heard that at Christian camp as a teenager & was able to claim that when some hoodlums tried to break into church (when I was there alone practicing music). Me: 14 at the time, & being a skinny scrawny lil' ole' thing, there's no way I would have had the strength to have shut that steel door against 3 brute teenage boys! I truly believe an angel shut that door for me that day.

    apologies.... "rabbit trails"

    Thanks for the great essay, Elizabeth!

  4. Hi Elizabeth,

    I am wondering how you respond in the moment when someone looks you straight in the eye who you have just met and says, "God told me that I was going to homeschool and that he was going to take me to another level in my relationship with him through it." I was surrounded by "God told me" stories in a group of fellow home educators today and I am continually stunned that people will say these kinds of things. In the moment I never know what to say. I am sorry for them on the one hand and on the other I feel angry because people say these kinds of things so confidently that I find myself getting annoyed. And what about when someone says, "The Lord showed me...such and such" about some other person in my life. People believing that God tells them things directly is rampant in my world and I'd like to know how best to respond (if at all) right in the moment when these things are said. Thanks and great articles lately, Melissa

    1. We homeschooled our kids and were members of home-school groups. What we learned was that you will find some of the most legalistic and bizarre teachings/beliefs among homeschoolers. This happens because they are putting their faith in Bill Gothard, the Ezzos, Mike & Debi Pearl, many Mennonite publications, and all things KJV only. And, of course, when you encounter those who attend a charismatic church you will hear of Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare (Frank Peretti is very popular), "God told me," etc, etc.

      While there is a good percentage of homeschoolers who are discerning, it is the others who spread this stuff like cancer.

    2. Melissa,
      I would like to share my thoughts on this, hoping Elizabeth will chime in and set me straight if I'm wrong :-) However, there was a time in my own life where I said such things as "God showed me..." or "God told me..." I realize now how arrogant and off-putting that can sound. However, I was expressing what happened, even though it was not in the best terms. I truly believe God speaks to our hearts through His word, in answer to prayer, and through promptings of the Holy Spirit but this is meant for us and us alone. We can't go to others and preach what was meant for us as if it is meant for everyone. We can't speak on behalf of God to others. We can only hear, receive, and respond to what He speaks to us. And I fear that in writing this I'm not as clear as I'd like to be! I'm not talking about channeling or hearing voices. I'm talking about hearing God's word and applying it to our lives, allowing the Holy Spirit to work within us to refine us, but it is a one-to-one vertical relationship between us and God. It's not a platform for us to preach to others, only to share the testimony of what God has done in our lives and point others to Him and His word.

    3. Hi Melissa,

      It is a great question, and I thought about it for a long time. I did some research and came up with quite a few possible responses. I wrote a blog essay entirely about it. It's here

      thank you os much for asking!

  5. Thank you, Glenn, Anonymous and Elizabeth. So great to read your post to go along with my question! I appreciate such an extensive answer and others' thoughts.

    With regard to homeschooling, I completely see what you mean, Glenn. We are new to homeschooling (will begin this fall--or I guess now, technically). Our kids had been in a private, Christian school for years but the lack of discernment made me think that in some ways, if they had been in a public school it would have been more cut and dried explaining right from wrong things they heard. Just because something says Christian, whether it be a bookstore, church, school or, dare I say a person, doesn't mean the person, place or thing honors or seeks after Truth. I am learning this as I go along. I was hopeful that I would find more likeminded individuals with this homeschooling group I met up with the other day but was disappointed by my first impression. I have read enough Ezzo books to know exactly when someone is echoing something from their line of thought. Loved Babywise but beyond that kind of lost interest. Really I think that if we get too caught up in any work of man it is not as good as returning to the Bible as our source for help.

    Regarding God told me...I think it just brings confusion whenever we make a claim like that and even jealousy. Oh, really? God told you that you were going to homeschool and He was going to take you to a new "level" with him? How nice! As for me, I read the Bible almost every day, pray that we will make a good decision, consider our options, think about it, talk to people, read and learn and do what I want to do because homeschooling seems like it will be a good fit for our family this year.
    I have had people insist that homeschooling is "a call" or whatever but can't it just be ok to decide to do something because we want to and it's not sinful? Is it bad to just do something because we feel like it?
    Same thing with buying a house recently...sure, we prayed for things to go smoothly, that it would be the right place for us, etc., but did we really need to be in a 3-hour quiet time "waiting on the Lord" for an answer about the house/neighborhood? Not that I think God doesn't CARE, just that I think He probably cares more that I am living according to what He clearly tells me in His Word more than worrying about all of the little details within the life with which He has blessed me.

    When I consider the concept of the sufficiency of Scripture it brings me a feeling of relief--like the playing field is leveled. We all get the same news. Glorious, wonderful news for all! Trying to be "more spiritual" like the next person or thinking that God has more to say to another person can't be right.


    1. Just as an aside, "Babywise" was one of the most dangerous of the Ezzo programs. Even Focus on the Family warned about it.

  6. Elizabeth,

    Quote: (I wonder what Jesus will say to the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention when He brings up Beth Moore's false prophecies and erroneous teaching...and that not only did they tolerate them but LifeWay made money off them...)

    Matthew 21:12-13 perhaps?


  7. Oh, no! Glenn! Say it isn't so! :D
    I could write for several paragraphs about how helpful On Becoming Babywise has been in caring for our babies (3rd through 6th--didn't buy it for the first 2 kids) but I doubt that Elizabeth wants her blog to become a chat room about breastfeeding (lol). If a mom has good common sense and reads it cover to cover it is actually really on target for making sure babies get good, full feedings every few hours consistently and getting them to fall asleep on their own. I have experienced how well they respond and how quickly they become good, sound sleepers. I understand taking the book with a grain of salt because certainly there are people who get really into the Ezzo stuff and it's over the top legalistic, in my opinion. Ok, that's all I will say or E might not print my comment. Haha. Plus our 6th baby is the last one for us and I'm ready to toss the book out the window pretty happy to not think about that stuff anymore! :) Melissa

    1. Gee, I don't know how women got along raising their babies before the Ezzos. :)

      Here's a site which I linked to in an article I did on the Ezzos, which examines the dangers of Babywise:

      Here's my article, which examines much of the Ezzo nonsense and abuse of Scripture. I think it's important, now that the Ezzo method has been mentioned, that readers of this string understand the dangers behind the Ezzo method and their horrid hermeneutics (or rather lack of proper hermeneutics).


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