I am not interested in challenging social conventions – whether or not there are “adult words” or whether the prohibition against “cussing” is a valid moral/ethical code or not. I am only interested in whether or not we are thinking. I wish to challenge our religion; our religious defense mechanisms. My desire is to challenge our deaf, dumb and blind traditions; those that are not given a second’s thought but are simply (and ignorantly) regurgitated as fact/truth statements.
Haven’t we conveniently found a way around the injunction against “using the Lord’s name in vain” when we simply make it about words? Even when we use lyrical rhyming words and/or synonyms are we not still speaking contrary to the spirit of the injunction? Our issue, truly, is not the words but the condition of our hearts and minds. Isn’t it telling that we actually think we can fool God by choice words or the words we choose not? I mean, if the mind and the heart are in it, do the words used change the severity and/or the intent of the injunction? No, it is not God that is the fool.
Reduced to Words, Then
Since we want to make this about words: First, when the precept was given (Exodus 20:7), using the name of God combined with a “cuss” word would have been unheard of, and absurd. The two word combination considered, traditionally, as “using the Lord’s name in vain” would be completely unintelligible to the Hebrews, for, there are no words for the vulgarity of Western languages in ancient Israel. It would have been (literally) impossible to declare God’s damning of anyone or anything by using this particular compound word.
Secondly, we are going to have to define “the Lord’s name,” and the word “vain.” By “name” are we saying “God?” That is not the name of the Hebrew/Christian God, but a title, according to the Scriptures. Most of the religions of the world have gods, and the Hebrew word does not differentiate between the Jewish/Christian God and any other god. To draw the distinction, the Hebrew/Christian God declares the name, “YHWH” (translated “Lord” in many Bibles), and “elohym” (which is actually the plural of “god”) as a title, in the text. Obviously, it goes without saying that God’s name is not Lord but YHWH. “Lord” was the word used, rather than writing the name (“YHWH”), by the various scribes for fear of “using the Lord’s name in vain.” Incidentally, the Greek word for G/god (theos), used throughout the New Testament, is a term that refers to “a generic deity.” In Arabic, the same word is “Allah” (do with that what you have to…).
Now, what is the definition of the word “vain?” Dictionary.com defines vain as, “conceited; futile,” and to do something “in vain” is to attempt to do it “without effect.” Thesaurus.com defines vain as, “egotistical; useless” and “failing to achieve a goal.” Even more revealing is the word “vain” as used in Exodus 20:7 – which, in the Hebrew, is the word saw, meaning, “deceit, lie, or falsehood.” The Complete Word Study Dictionary explains it thusly: “God used the word to indicate that He punished Judah in vain [to no avail]. The word is used by the psalmist to state that all activities such as laboring, guarding, rising early, staying up late, and toiling for food were useless without God’s assistance (Ps. 127:1-2). In the Ten Commandments, the word is used to describe what is prohibited (Deut. 5:20). The word is used in Proverbs to indicate that which the author desires to be kept away from him; in this case, falsehood and lies (Pro. 30:8). Idols were declared worthless with the usage of the noun in Jeremiah (Jer. 18:15). These idols were those that led the people of God to forget Him.” (Emphasis mine)
Christian Vanity; the Alter Christ, Our Alter Ego
So, how does one in the New Testament era (from Pentecost to the present), then, go about using “the name of the Lord in vain?” By definition, it is to take the name of Jesus Christ – that is, to claim to be a “Christian” – and then not live out of the faithfulness of Christ. It is to claim to be a Christian and then to live in and out of simple human religion, and deny the faithfulness of Christ as life for living. It is easily defined as “failing to achieve the goal” of the name Christian. It is to claim the transformation of the Cross of Christ only to live out of the old depraved nature that was crucified – counterfeiting faith with contrary religious practices – Denying the Resurrection Life of Christ to simply live a lifestyle of a counterfeit culture of corruption (i.e., the Church Culture). “Christianos” (Christian), according to both uses of the word in the Greek New Testament, is a derivative of the name “Christos” (Christ). It speaks of one who is owned by the Resurrected Christ and, therefore, expresses his worldview.
Transformative Words: The Transformation of the Mind
Plainly: Am I to understand that, thousands of years ago when God sent the Decalogue down with Moses from Mt Sinai – when God carved the Ten Commandments as the pillars of life for Israel – it was insisted upon that one of these ten foundational precepts was that no one could string together the words god and damn? Really?!
It is far too easy to make of this (and many other things in the Scriptures) something we can simply obtain, and obtain by simple restraint. Oh, how we can pat ourselves on the back for not stringing two words together, though. Isn’t God so proud of us for not combining a “name” (a title, really) with another word and cuss someone/thing?! My argument is that, “using the Lord’s name in vain” – as it is found in the Scriptures and in its logical implication – is far more challenging than a selection of words. It now becomes about transformed natures. Now it becomes about internal workings, rather than external words. And it is now a thinking faith and not a senseless religious tradition. It now refers to the faithfulness of Christ in action, rather than the frailty of humanity in words.