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This Third Commandment is recorded in Exodus 20:7. To not take God’s name in vain means to not take it lightly and to never use God’s holy name as a thoughtless, hateful curse! This is perhaps the most common and lightly treated sin today, as profanity is splashed all over our television and movies. But God tells us to stop using blasphemy and filthy language and to bless rather than curse.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Colosse, “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8). He also gave this instruction to the church in Rome, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14).
Instead of using His name in vain with profanity, we are to reverence God and represent His name well. Jesus Christ called on His followers to set the right example so people would glorify God’s name. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
In contrast, Paul warned that our wrong actions could defame God’s name: “You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ as it is written” (Romans 2:24, alluding to Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 52:5 and Ezekiel 36:22).
Jesus told us that God’s name should be “hallowed” in our prayers (Matthew 6:9). This is translated “kept holy” in the New Living Translation and the Modern Language Bible.
The book of Psalms and many other parts of the Bible give examples of the praise and honor that are due God’s name. Here are just a few:
It is amazing that Jesus Christ gives His followers the awesome privilege to pray using His name! “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14).
We must not misuse this privilege; it is not like a genie in a bottle. We are only to ask according to His will, not selfishly. As the apostle John wrote, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15).
Instead of using profanity, we are to “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).
To study more about respectfully using God’s name in prayer, read the article “How to Pray.”