Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain

Often, our only thought on “taking the Lord’s name in vain,” is the misuse of a few letters that combine to form the words, “God,” “Lord,” or “Jesus.” And, in a sense, that’s true. There is reverence and deep emotion attached to the person of God for those of us who know Him personally.

There is a greater sense, however, in using God’s name and person to misrepresent Him and this happens all too frequently.

Offering platitudes and reminders of God’s sovereignty, goodness, and grace as a means of minimizing pain is one way we use the Lord’s name in vain. How often do we wave the magic wand of Jesus’ name to bring relief from suffering? Not relief for the individual in need as much as for ourselves? Those of us helping and listening balk at entering in to excruciating pain and revisiting another’s suffering. It’s easier, as one woman said, to “slap on a salvation prayer, baptize her, videotape an amazing story then send her home to pray and read the Bible on her own.”

Here’s what may be an uncomfortable analogy:

For years we owned, bred, and raised sheep. All ewes (females). We started with three that were bred (pregnant), then the number climbed to nine as we kept back some lambs (Dottie, the ewe, was one of our first and she always had triplets). They multiplied like loaves and fishes to upward of 45. Each year we rented our neighbor’s ram (affectionately known as “the fertilizer guy”), and lambed a few months later.

If you are unaware, many, if not most, births require assistance. One Wednesday night after a long day with small children (4 under the age of 10), mid-week services, tucking children in to bed and hoping they’d stay there, I wandered out to the barn and found a ewe in labor (my husband was on a business trip).

Here’s the thing, every year I struggled to get in-volved (as in, up to my elbow or more) the first time. Sometimes the second and third time. I didn’t want to. I considered my discomfort; looked at the ewe in distress, watched her turn circles, lie down, pant as her belly tightened and released, get up, and walk in circles. “But,” I reasoned, “this is normal. God created sheep to give birth. She shouldn’t need help… Maybe it will happen without me.” As time wore on, I prayed–time and again, year after year–“God, help me. Help me, please.”

That Wednesday night I discovered a tiny front hoof and tip of a tail ready to launch. Regardless of what you know about lambing, a front foot and tail cannot emerge at the same time. The hoof belongs to one creature and the tail to another. It was up to me to resolve the traffic jam. The mama was in a desperate situation.

When people come to us in great pain and discomfort, we do God a disservice when we use His name lightly and fail to act. We take God’s name in vain not only when we say it meaninglessly, or when we use a semblance of “God” to accomplish our own purpose at the expense of others, but also when we claim His goodness while withholding it from those in need.

God gives grace for us to see our reflection in the mirror of His Word (James 1:22-27), to ask–to beg–for change and transformation in our lives, that we might represent Jesus more and more clearly.

That mama sheep had quadruplets, by the way. And they delivered one at a time, through the night. It’s a process God uses not only to deliver others, but to sanctify us. What price are you willing to pay to be like Jesus?

But we do see Jesus—made lower than the angels for a short time so that by God’s grace he might taste death for everyone—crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death.

For in bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was entirely appropriate that God—for whom and through whom all things exist—should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying:

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters;
I will sing hymns to you in the congregation.

Again, I will trust in him. And again, Here I am with the children God gave me.

Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.

(Hebrews 2:9-14 CSB)

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