“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, ESV)
With apologies for not having written sooner, I will suggest that the third commandment has an important New Testament equivalent.
“Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9, ESV)
I cannot count the number of times I recited this prayer without any idea what hallowed means. It is a word that, apart from the Lord’s Prayer, I doubt would be used today. This is partly because it is a very old word, but mostly, I think, because the meaning has little intentional use. Hallowed refers to something being set apart from everything else and is sacred.
In a humanist society, there is nothing that is sacred, with a few huge exceptions. The Evangelical Church has worked hard to remove the concept of sacred by taking the holy out of the common things we do as sacred actions. Alters (or Communion Tables) have been removed from the Sanctuary. Even the concept of a Sanctuary, a holy place, has been made a performance stage. Hymn books have been replaced with projectors and the people of God, who used to know music and musicality, sing pop songs that are theologically shallow or down right heretical.
These are just a few examples of my point. We cannot expect a society to know what is hallowed if we do not live hallowed lives and worshiping a Hallowed God instead of a best friend Jesus. Jesus does declare that he now calls his disciples his friends. However, his intent was not to create a familiarity that ignores his holy character. I can’t get out of my mind the picture of George Carlin playing the role of a Catholic Priest trying to instill new life into a boring church. [This is a reference to the movie Dogma.] Carlin’s great reveal is a new statue of Jesus replacing the crucifix which he calls the “Buddy Jesus.”
We don’t need a buddy Jesus. We don’t need to think of prayer as a phone call to God. We don’t need the familiarity with God that is without the fear of God. We need a Savior. We need justice and justification. We need to remember what sin is and what its consequences are. We need a Father who loves his children enough to chastise them when they are wrong.
The chief end of man is to glorify God. [Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 1] How is God glorified? By hallowing his name. It grieves God every time one of his children react to something with OMG. It grieves God every time anyone trivializes his name with “Thank God its Friday.” Why not thank God it is Sunday when the church gathers to hallow his name?
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Vanity is emptiness. Vanity is useless. God is neither empty nor useless. He is the only true relevance we have in life. He created life, blessed life, and restores life. To empty the name of God is not merely accomplished by swearing or cursing. To take God’s name in vain is accomplished by ignoring him, by ignoring his word, and by ignoring his gifts. Every politician who runs for election to gain power over others or to enrich his or her self takes the name of the Lord in vain. Every aborted fetus takes the name of the Lord in vain. Every refusal to hear and obey the Law of God takes his name in vain.
The Christian religion is not a game. It is not even a life style. It is life itself because God raises the dead and grants them life in Christ Jesus. It is life itself because Christ ours out his Spirit upon his brothers and sisters granting them training in holiness. The third commandment means nothing to most people because it means precious little to the members of the Church. There is only one way to turn the trajectory of our nation around, and that is to faithfully obey God’s law and teach others to obey it in all reverence and holiness.
“…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV)