The Third Commandment (Exodus 20:7)
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
When I was a kid, I thought the third commandment, which I remembered as “do not take the Lord’s name in vain” simply meant that you can’t say God when you cuss. Which always seemed like a strange rule to have, since I wasn’t supposed to cuss anyway, so why would God have such strong opinions about specifically how I went about saying the things I wasn’t supposed to say.
And I suppose there is something to that, it is particularly vulgar to sling around something as sacred as the name of God whenever I stub my toe. Because even this seems to be pretty minor when you look at all the ways you can misuse the name of God. But before we can really look at what it might mean to misuse the name of God, first we should have an understanding of how we should use the name of God.
All throughout scriptures, you have people calling on the name of the Lord. One notable example being when the Israelites called on the name of God to save them from slavery to the Egyptians, which is exactly what God did in the chapters before the 10 commandments. In the gospels, Jesus sends his disciples out to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The psalms, on multiple occasions, encourage us to fear the name of the Lord, to bless the name of the Lord, to glorify the name of the Lord. There are many things that God calls us to use his name for, and they all have 1 thing in common; they come from the covenant that He has made between us and him. The covenant where he saves us from the misery of sin, and we serve Him and His kingdom.
So what does it mean to misuse the name of the Lord? It means using the name of God to trick or bully others into following our plans, and not His.
When we use His name to commit evil and commit injustice, casually throwing out misappropriated scripture to justify our actions, we have misused the name of God. Whenever we use the name of God as a weapon to beat down those around us, those we have dismissed as being inferior to us, then we have abused the name of God.
Because above all, what this third commandment gets at, is that we have been given an extraordinary blessing that we should be allowed to call upon the name of the Lord in the first place. The fact that He actually allows us to speak on his behalf and be His people should be humbling. God’s relationship with us is a great thing, but that does not mean we can accept his blessings lightly.