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)
Most likely, you’ve done it before. You hit your thumb with a hammer, almost got into a wreck, actually got into a wreck, watched your favorite team blow a huge lead in the Super Bowl or witnessed your middle child spilling grape juice on the new carpet. And then you said it. You used the name of the Creator of the universe as a curse word.
Why do we do this? When we hit our thumb with a hammer, we don’t say, “Oh, Hitler!” Or when we try to check out at the grocery store and only one out of 13 lines is open, we don’t say, “Charles Manson!” Yet, for some reason, it comes naturally for us to use the name of God in that way.
But that’s not the only way that we break the third commandment. There is a more subtle way to use God’s name in the wrong way. If you pay attention, you’ll see it all the time. All you have to do is watch the way that people in this country talk about politics.
Judging simply by my Twitter feed over the weekend, it looked like the world, or at least America, had come to an end. People were losing their minds because of a tax cut that had been passed. Of course, there were the usual suspects who love paying enormous taxes who were not happy at all about this. But there was another group of protestors in the mix. They were the religious left. That’s right, the folks who can’t so much as mention the name of Jesus during a Sunday morning, ahem, sermon, started invoking his name to criticize this tax plan.
Their basic point was clear: if you support tax cuts, God’s going to get you for neglecting the poor.
This foolishness isn’t confined to the left side of the political spectrum. That’s right, even members of the religious right, you know, the ones who claim to revere Jesus, are guilty of using his name in vain. This happens when they declare that the hurricane that just wiped out a city was most definitely God judging the folks of that city for living a lifestyle that does not fit the GOP platform. It also happens when they constantly remind us that a certain politician is, “God’s man” even though the only qualifying attribute in that politician is that he happens to be a Republican. Republicans, some evangelicals would have us to believe, are God’s favorite political party. That’s why it’s okay for a grown man to have inappropriate relationships with fourteen-year-old girls and it’s why it’s okay for another man to live his entire adult life as an adulterer, even going so far as to be caught on tape joking about his motives that, were he an average citizen would be called for what they are – sexual assault. But this is God’s man, they tell us. After all, they reason, the man did just give a great speech where he mentioned Mary and Joseph and said Merry Christmas. It was the greatest moment in church history since Johnny beat the devil in that fiddle contest!
The church should be ashamed. And, just a short time from now when we have lost any moral ground to stand upon as the sexual revolution continues to spiral out of control, we should not be surprised that no one wants to listen to what the crowd who supported two of the biggest partakers in the foolishness has to say on behalf of God.
For once, the left and the right have one thing in common. They both routinely break the third commandment because they have broken the first commandment.
“You shall have no other God’s before me.” Exodus 20:3 (ESV)
The god of the left is a bloated, angry and hateful beast who wears a disguise of compassion. The god of the right preaches a gospel of family values and the good old days but deep down he only cares about the same thing that the god of the left cares about. Power. That’s because the god of the left and the god of the right are the same. His name is Government.
Government is a gift from God (Romans 13:1-14). We need government. If you don’t believe me, visit a country where there’s a new military coupe every fifteen minutes or so. But here’s the thing about government. It makes a terrible god. Yet, for some reason, folks on the left and the right keep worshiping it. And when their god leaves them unfulfilled, rather than taking a second look at the object of their worship, they just cry for more of him while yelling louder at the folks on the other side. It’s like an addiction.
The early church sold their possessions and belongings and distributed, “the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45). They somehow managed to do this without being coerced by the government, as some on the left would have us to believe. And their compassion was not limited to one group of allegedly deserving people (Acts 6:1-7), as some on the right like to model. Rather, they gave because of their devotion to the one true God. He had worked in their heart in such a way that they couldn’t help but live generously with their own money rather than ignoring the needs of others or simply relying on some bureaucracy to be compassionate for them.
Jesus Christ reigns supreme over all political parties and government institutions. He doesn’t need hucksters who pretend to follow him in order for his kingdom to advance, just as he doesn’t need the selectively outraged who only care about the poor online and when cameras are around.
He doesn’t need anything.
But we need him.
It’s time we cry his name out in repentance rather than using it to advance our favorite political cause.
Otherwise, when he says our name, it might just be to pronounce a curse on both of our houses.