Day 4: Do Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain

It’s important to take a deep look into the Ten Commandments, especially those which are often overlooked. This often makes me think of one of the commandments I’ve always struggled to understand its significance, until it was framed differently for me about a month ago: the third commandment.

The third commandment, as written in Exodus 20, goes as follows:
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
The way this is often told to us, or at least howI learned it as a child, is “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.”

For a long time, I never knew what it meant to take the Lord’s name in vain. My naive understanding of it was to not say things like, “Oh my God!” or to speak against God in some way. Admittedly, I never looked into it enough to think any differently, so I held this view for quite some time.

But I finally came to a new understanding of what it means. “Taking the Lord’s name” does not refer to to our actions so to speak, but rather, inwards to our hearts. When we confess Christ as our Savior and God as our Father, we are welcomed into a family of believers. In being a part of that family, we take on the identity of a follower of God; we take on His name.

What it means to not take that name in vain is to not do it half-heartedly. If you truly claim to be a follower of God, you have to be entirely bought in. God didn’t create us to be half in and half out. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

In this case, we actually are doing that work for the Lord. There’s a difference between being involved in a community of believers and being invested.

Within the realm of Collaboratory projects at school, we talk about this difference. A member who is involved shows up, does their work, and that’s it. Members who are entirely invested are bought in to the point that their work is always on their mind; all they want is to see that work completed, and completed well. If you’re just there to check items off a list, is your work really going to be the best it could be?

It’s the same idea with taking on the name of being a follower of God. If you’re only halfway in, you’re not going to get the best results out. Shouldn’t we be giving God everything we have?

This goes back to my idea from Day 1, we need to be on a relentless pursuit towards God.

It reminds me of the line, “If you’re not 100% sure you want to do something, don’t do it at all.” This commandment is almost God’s way of saying that – obviously God is not one to exile us and to ever not want us to pursue Him. But my point is that He wants all we have to give, not just whatever is convenient for us to give.

My final thought on this commandment is to read it as “Do not call yourself a follower of God unless you fully strive to live it out.” It’s not to say you won’t mess up sometimes, that’s part of being human. But to truly strive to be a member of the family of believers is to recognize our humanness and brokenness and our overall need for God’s grace, which He so gladly gives to those who follow Him.

To God be the Glory.

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