At work, it was not unusual to hear people refer to things that I had said that I had not really said. Words were misquoted or taken out of context due to misunderstanding or to foster false impressions. At those times, I would jokingly say that my name was taken in vain as the incorrect directives were attributed to me.
The third commandment in Exodus 20:7 gives us God’s expectation that His name not be taken in vain, but what does it mean to take His name in vain? We often connect it to using God’s name in cursing, and this certainly is wrong (Ephesians 4:29), but the command reaches much further than this. The word vain carries the meaning of empty or useless, without power. When we use the name of God in vain, we are denying the omnipotence of His being. We also use God’s name in vain when we misrepresent Who He is and what He has said.
We see an example of this in Isaiah 48:1. “Hear this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.” Israel was using God’s name, but they were using it in vain. Their walk did not match their talk.
God calls His children to walk (live) in a way that aligns with Who He is. Just a quick search of the word “walk” in the New Testament reveals several characteristics of our walk.
Romans 6:4 – walk in newness of life
Romans 8:1, 4 – walk in the Spirit
Romans 13:13 – walk honestly
I Corinthians 7:17 – walk according to God’s call on your life
II Corinthians 5:7 – walk by faith
Ephesians 2:10 – walk in good works
Ephesians 4:1 – walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called
Ephesians 5:2 – walk in love (this is a lifetime goal within itself)
Ephesians 5:8 – walk as children of the light
Ephesians 5:15 – walk circumspectly (watchfully, cautiously)
Colossians 1:10 – walk worthy of the Lord
Colossians 2:6 – walk in Christ
While there are a number of other references, I will stop there, because there is already enough to keep me busy walking for a long time.
When we walk as God has called us, we bring honor to His name. When we fail to walk in His way, we take His name in vain. This means that even if I never utter a curse word, I take God’s name in vain when I fail to walk in love or walk honestly or walk in Christ.
We often focus on all the things that the Bible tells us not to do, ways that we should not walk, but if we attend to walking God’s way those things will take care of themselves.
Today I want to bring honor to God’s name, not take it in vain, so let me get busy walking His way.
I John 2:5 But whoso keeps His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him. 6 He that says he abides in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He (Jesus) walked.