Taking Up The LORD’s Name In Vain: What Does It Mean?

Do The Dishes, Bro

I recently shared the following in a Facebook Post based on material I first presented in the second Sunday School lesson on the Ten Commandments:

My mother often told me to do the dishes. I often did not feel like doing the dishes. So, I was tempted to get my little brother to do the dishes for me.

Now if I said, “Terrance, go do the dishes,” he would probably shoot me one of those “who-do-you-think-you-talking-to” glances and return to business as usual.

Now if I said, “Terrance, Mommy said go do the dishes,” I could probably see suds in no time. For my mother’s word carries much more authority than mine

As crafty and effective as this strategy might have been, I was essentially using my mother’s name in vain. That is, I was attempting to attach her name — her authority — to my self-centered claims.

Brothers and sisters, may we always be careful when using the LORD’s name. Let us not only avoid using God’s name in swears (in both senses of the word), but let us also use caution when aiming to attach divine authority to our words.

When I hear a sentence start, “God told me to….,” I certainly hope we aren’t using the LORD’s name in vain.

#TheTenCommandments #LetsNotGiveGodABadName#PutSomeRespeckOnIt

Confusing Our Claims with God’s Claims

I owe this insight first to Dr. Michael Allen’s course, ET101 Law and Gospel: The Basic of Christian Ethics, in which he has a section entitled, “Using God’s Name To Win Arguments.” In addition to people who use God’s Name in the midst of debates, Allen speaks of authors who audaciously write books like, “Raising Kids God’s Way.” More accurately, such books should be titled “Raising Kids [The Author’s] Way” or at least “Raising Kids The Way [The Author] Believes Is God’s Way.”

That’s taking the Lord’s name in vain. It’s using God’s credit card, as it were, to earn respect, authority, and gravitas in a way you otherwise wouldn’t.1

While many scholars point out that the third commandments is a general prohibition against any and all misuses of the LORD’s Name (e.g., swearing falsely, swearing profanely, using His Name frivolously, etc.), Hamilton also seems to be thinking along the same lines of Allen concerning attaching God’s name for credibility:

In sum, the third commandment cautions against using the Lord’s name falsely to buttress a truth claim that is fabricated.2

Don’t Give God A Bad Name

Finally, as I also pointed out in the Sunday School lesson, there is yet another way to “take up” the LORD’s name in vain (more literally: “raise up Yahweh’s name for no good”).3 For since God’s people bear His Name (2 Chron 7:14, 1 Pet 4:16), as Hamilton argues, the third commandment (Ex 20:7) may be saying, “Either honor my name, both by the way you live and by the way you talk, or else dissociate yourself from my name.”4

When I was about to go out with my mother as a youngin’, she would often tell me not to embarrass her. For my actions, whether or not she had anything to do with them at all, reflected back on her — on her parenting, on her name. Similarly, my brothers and sisters, if we call ourselves Christians (1 Pet 4:16), let us not give Christ a bad name.


  1. R. Michael Allen, ET101 Law and Gospel: The Basis of Christian Ethics, Logos Mobile Education (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
  2. Victor P. Hamilton, Exodus: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 336.
  3. Douglas K. Stuart, , vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 455.
  4. Victor P. Hamilton, Exodus: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 336.
About @DannyScottonJr 215 Articles
Imperfect Servant ✝📖⛪ | Husband | Princeton U. Alum | M. Div. | Assistant (to the) Pastor | Sound Doctrine & Apologetics @catchforchrist