The Third Commandment prohibits profanity, swearing and cursing: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.”
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).
Reverencing God and representing Him properly
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).
Prayers and praise, not profanity
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:
- “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1).
- “Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:1-2).
- “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1-5).
- “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells in Him” (Daniel 2:20-22).
- “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11).
Praying in Jesus’ name
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.”