The Third Commandment: Do Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain


The third of the 10 Commandments says, “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). This is often interpreted in a way that prohibits using God’s name in swearing or other inappropriate speech for talking about the Almighty. While the commandment definitely makes this prohibition, it is much broader and deeper. This commandment
doesn’t just speak of our words; it speaks of our entire lives.

If you are a Christian, you have taken the Lord’s name. Why did you take this name? Perhaps you took the name to be saved (and no other name saves), but is salvation evident in your lifestyle? Can your family, friends, and fellow churchgoers see that you’ve been saved, or is your Christianity a well-kept secret? You took a righteous and holy name when you took the name of Christ. Did you take the holiness of the name in vain? If these two reasons for taking the Lord’s name – salvation and righteousness – aren’t being accomplished publicly, then you’ve taken the Lord’s name in vain and broken this third commandment. The Lord’s name should affect every part of your life; otherwise you’ve taken it in vain and are in violation of this clear ethical code.

I hope that when you think of the third commandment you will think of its deeper meaning. Obedience to the command isn’t simply changing “Oh, God” to “My goodness!” Obedience to the command involves living up to the reasons you took the Name. Make your salvation evident through your words by heralding the gospel and through your actions by good works. Don’t let your righteousness be questioned. Clearly speak and act from a godly perspective, not a worldly one. Let biblical doctrine and teaching be in your very core so that there is no question as to whether or not the Lord’s name has affected you in a major way. This is the true way to live by the ethical code given in Exodus 20:7.

In my discussion on the first commandment, I indicated that the Ten Commandments were connected in a way that makes it fairly certain that if you’re breaking one, you’re likely breaking others as well. That certainly stands for this commandment because if your salvation or righteousness isn’t evident, chances are that you’re breaking the first two foundational commandments and several of those that come after them. The third commandment serves as somewhat of a transition from the foundation to the specifics, the first three being fundamental indicators of priority.