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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 (RSV)
(Questions and topics from chapter 3 in Broken Tablets : Restoring the Ten Commandments and Ourselves. Ed. by: Rachel S. Mikva. Jewish Lights Pub; 1999, and chapter 3 in Do We Still Need the Ten Commandments? : A Fresh Look at God's Laws of Love & Changing Perspectives. John H. Timmerman. Augsburg Fortress. 1997.)
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 (RSV)
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. (NRSV)
You shall not life up the name of Adonai your God for vain purpose, for Adonai will not clear one who uses the Name in vain (Broken Tablets)
2. What does using God’s name “in vain,” “for vain purpose” mean?
2.1 Definitions. Restating the Commandment
vain: dictionary definition:
Thus: do not use God’s name:
A “positive” restatement of the commandment:
we should lift up the name of God only:
2.2. Examples of Lifting God's Name up in Vain
Examples of lifting up God’s name in vain:
3.1 Can we of dust and ashes ever use the transcendent name of God without subtly taking it in vain?
We should therefore consider the commandment a:
This permission however has boundaries.
3.2 Is every action of a religious person a reflection on God’s name?
If we call ourselves “Christians” and do not act as Christ, are we then taking God’s name in vain? Is an offense against the Third commandment also part of our sin?
4. How Can We Lift Up the Name of the Lord God Correctly?
We should lift up the name of God only
The basis for this: the relationship at the heart of the commandment
Our relationship with God involves:
Therefore we should try to lift up God’s name:
6.1. What the Third Commandment Requires for Prayer
In praying, we are invoking God’s name, “lifting up” the name of God.
Third Commandment requires that
we pray for:
we pray with a deep earnestness and honesty:
6.2. Honesty in Prayer
The third commandment in particular calls us to honesty in prayer.
Examples of the honesty required in lifting up the name of God:
To be true to the Third Commandment requires we lift up the name of God only with deep earnestness and honesty. We must not lie to the Holy One. We must not lift up the name of God with adjectives whose meaning is empty to us.
7. The Lord Will Not Hold Guiltless Those Who Take His Name in Vain
“. . . for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (RSV)
Taking God’s name in vain may seem like a victimless act. What can we possibly do to harm God?
But consider the relationship at the heart of the commandment. Taking God's name in vain
Broken Tablets : Restoring the Ten Commandments and Ourselves. Ed. by: Rachel S. Mikva. Jewish Lights Pub; Woodstock, Vermont, 1999
Do We Still Need the Ten Commandments? : A Fresh Look at God's Laws of Love & Changing Perspectives. John H. Timmerman. Augsburg Fortress. Minneapolis, 1997
Commandments of Compassion. James F. Keenan, S.J. Sheed and Ward. Franklin, WI, 1999.