You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. Exodus 20,7
Reflection: Have you ever driven through Herzegovina and passed a billboard with a picture of Mary holding Jesus and the caption “Stop cursing my son!”? When thinking about the third commandment, it’s easy to fall into the trap of the obvious. Of course, the commandment tells us not to curse God, swear by his name, use it in profanity, or in any other inappropriate way in speech. However, the commandment seems to demand a deeper exploration at the very least, because it comes with a clear warning in case of disrespect, unlike, for example, the commandment that forbids murder.
We should ask ourselves, what would be the vain, empty, and worthless taking of God’s name? Perhaps it’s not so much about the words we say, but about how we understand God and our place in His world. In our region, it’s not uncommon for some “Christian” nations to claim God for themselves. Some popular slogans in the Balkans say “God and…” or “God saves…” (If you haven’t heard of these two slogans and don’t know how to finish them, do your research and then fill in the blank.) Maybe this commandment, for example, wants to protect us from the illusory notion that God is “ours.” The existence of such slogans, which reduce the Creator of the world to a tribal deity, testifies to a low level of understanding of God that we read about on the pages of the Bible. However, claiming God can also refer to individuals. Perhaps the commandment wants to protect us from spiritual pride, from the syndrome of “God who is on my side,” who constantly tells me, comes to my aid, and solves every problem for me. Furthermore, the Scriptures warn us not to use God’s name as a magic word. When we bind, loosen, prophesy, command, break, and give orders in prayer or spiritual warfare, let us remember Jeremiah’s struggle with the prophets who prophesied illusions to Judah in God’s name, and Jesus’ words to those who said to Him, “Did we not do many miracles in your name?”
One thing is certain, through this commandment, God wants to tell us to take His name seriously in every area of life.
Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I take your name in vain for my purposes. Forgive me for my spiritual pride and ignorance. Deepen my understanding of your ways and decrees. Teach me what it means to take your name seriously and correctly.
Jeremiah 23, Matthew 7:15-23, Acts 19:11-20
Translated from the Bosnian language (mostly) by ChatGPT Feb 13 Version