Taking the Lord's name in vain

Growing up, I remember kids at school using the exclamation “Jesus Christ!” when frustrated by a task or other problems with life in general.

I used this catchy new phrase on my grandmother when she asked me to take out her garbage and was greeted with a healthy slap to the face. “Don’t you EVER take the Lord’s name!” It was a lesson that I remembered, even after the feeling returned to my face.

But as I grow older, the word “vain” doesn’t mean that necessarily. I would think the vanity would imply that I use His name for a purpose to make myself look better. For example:

Neighbor: That’s a nice TV you’ve got there.
Me: Yes, the Lord has blessed me with enough income to afford it.

Now, to me, that is taking the Lord’s name in vain. I am trying to show my piety by commenting on God when there is no reason. He wasn’t in the discussion; I just tried to show how holy I was by commenting on a stupid TV and invoking God in the discussion. To me, THAT is what is meant by the commandment.

Why has it evolved into using God as a swear word that we believe that it is “vanity” to do so?

“In vain” doesn’t mean “with vanity.” It means “to no purpose, uselessly.” In other words, “do not call on God (by invoking his name) unless you are actually invoking god—praise, prayer, etc.”

ETA: In other words, do not cry wolf with God.

I like to think those most-literal of Bible adherants, The Jehovah’s Witnesses, are taking the Lord’s name in vain with their very moniker.

I certainly doubt that any of them would agree with me.

While, as Dr. Drake points out, the expression “in vain” has very little to do with vanity, I can see where you might be confused, but keep in mind that the original expression wasn’t in English. In the original there may not even be the tenuous relationship there is in English.

This was how I was raised to understand it. In other words, if something horrible like a car accident is happening and you cry out, “Oh my God”, you are not necessarily using the Lord’s name in vain. But if you drop your pencil and say it, you probably are.

Boy, I must be a pain in his ass.

Heh. I like the idea that God threw a commandment in there just to try to get us to stop pranking his phone.

You are making a jump here and a judgement call but it all comes down to what you really mean, aka the condition of your heart when you make the statement.

If you mean the above, you are using the name of the Lord to make you appear ‘holier then thou’, it’s calling being piest, and Jesus did speak out about it.

But if you are thankful to God for what God has done for you then this is exactly what you should be doing - and in some cases if you understand that it is really all God who has done this you can’t help but praise him, it is natural and comes from the heart.

In both cases the reply ‘Yes, the Lord has blessed me with enough income to afford it.’ could be a reply. This is why the Lord looks at the heart, not the words used.

I think you may be able to make a case that the first one is a form of vanity.

Why? Can’t he tell the difference?

You’re asking about a mythological character in a literary / cultural text, either as if that character were a real person or as if there was a single author whose characters had cogent motivations. To answer, I’d have to speak for God or the author(s) of the Pentateuch.

God: Because it’s disrespectful, and because I am the Lord thy God and I said so. Now if you don’t quit slaying your brother I’m going to turn this planet right around and go home.
Author: I’m trying to instill you with a sense of awe and fear in order to promote the authority of the priesthood I represent, which increases the amount of power I wield in my everyday life. Try not to subvert me, please.

There are plenty of other perspective you could take to answer “why”, of course.

I’m sure everyone knows this, but it’s worth noting that the Orthodox position in Judaism has always been to avoid using the word entirely. There are a large number of euphemisms for God, and many will even write it in English as G-d.

The commandment seems to be interpreted as broadly as possible.

Or, very similarly, don’t use God’s name in an unworthy way.

Calling upon God to protect your family or to have mercy on the souls of disaster victims = Worthy.
Swearing an oath to tell the truth, whole truth, etc., so help you God = Worthy.

Using God’s name to curse or express annoyance at household chores = Unworthy = Using name in vain.

ETA: If you must curse . . . (photo).

And yet, that one was denounced as un-worthy by God Himself: “Do not swear… but let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’” (Mathew 5:34-37).

(In the Anglosphere, that swearing is not considered to be “taking God’s name in vain”; in Spain, it is. The opposite of what happened to “Jesus bless you” or about using Jesus as a personal name)

If I were an omniscient omnipotent omnipresent being capable of creating at least one astounding universe, I wouldn’t give a flying figleaf how some pitiful creature used my name. I might be a little insulted that people thought I did.

The amusing thing about all of this to me when I was a kid is that the God of Abraham, i.e., the one who gave that law in the OT, says His name is “I am” (Ex. 3, IIRC). “God” is His title, not His name.

So all the rubbed rhubarb about taking His name in vain (everything from the taboo on “goddamn” as an oath to people who write G-d instead of the full word) seems completely absurd to me and has since I was about 10. It’s all just, as George used to say, about the spooky language.

I notice that a lot of people on this board seem to avoid using the word “God”, replacing it with “Og” (see examples here and here, I have also seen it more recently than these results from Googling), which just looks weird to me.

It’s a joke dating back to the early years of the board where a poster had a habit of typing og instead of god when writing things like goddammit.

Yeah he probably meant YHWH. And was probably done out of kindness, 'cause how the hell do you pronounce that anyway?

YHWH-damn it!

Oh my YHWH!

At best you’d sound like a drunk Canadian. YHW -eh?

I was under the impression it originated with the common typo of “og” for “of” (in constructions like “He’s a master og disguise”) leading to the response “Og smash!” which then resulted in various references to Og.

I don’t think it’s about him caring about us insulting him as much is it is about purity of our own thoughts.

For instance, I’m not offended by cursing myself, if someone says shit or fuck or whatever, I don’t really care. I still try not to use words like that in general because I feel that I ought to be able to come up with other ways of expressing myself without resulting to the same few words that, offensive or not, are often looked down upon. At the same time, I do feel like there are times when they’re pretty much the only word that captures the feeling. By using those words often, it diminishes the value of those words in those times when they really do convey something different. And, for the record, I also have several other completely non-offensive words that I use very rarely for the same reason, because they have special meaning to me and I want to preserve that meaning by only using them when they really fit. It’s like using a sledgehammer when a small ball-peen hammer will do.

So, really, I should be calling upon God when I need him, not for his benefit, but for my own. I shouldn’t be calling out “Jesus Christ!” or “Goddmanit!” because someone cuts me off in traffic, but if I see a terrible accident, saying “Oh my God!” may not be inappropriate.