I have written before on the subject of taking the Lords name in vain, but recent developments bring the subject to mind again. I have noticed that some church groups are claiming a broader and broader definition of what constitutes this taking in vain. Supposedly, even saying something as seemingly innocuous as “Oh My God!” would qualify as an infraction.
For one thing, I am not convinced that we really understand the issue behind this particular commandment. I personally suspect that the intention was to prohibit oath taking by invoking God’s name rather than some flippant comment in which God’s name was used. However, I realize that the Jews for the most part interpreted the commandment generally as the church has, refraining even from writing God’s name for fear of a violation.
Assuming for the moment that we do properly interpret the command as addressing idle comments rather than oaths, what causes us to believe that God is so careful of His dignity and so touchy concerning His exalted status that He demands such careful speech within His hearing? Can God really operate in a way that is so little differentiated from that of mortal potentates, who often have demanded respectful behavior toward their person on penalty of death?
My conclusion is that God cannot be so insecure and self absorbed as to spend His time and efforts guarding His good name against idle and irreverent expressions. His majesty is too great and too sure to ever be threatened or realistically impugned by any supposed human impiety. To hammer someone over vain words would be too much like a man’s reaction, an attempt to maintain a position of superiority which depends on dictated respect rather than that which naturally arises from being honorable and respectful. Perhaps the touchy one isn’t God after all; maybe it’s just the church which has so much invested in a theology of rules and the enforcement thereof.