It is not uncommon to hear people toss around God’s name as the exclamation point of their frustration. Their angst or excitement is not usually directed at God but nevertheless his name seems to find its way into our canned responses (even in texts with “OMG”). In the last year I have heard an uptick of Christians engaging in the same routine. So here is the question, “Is it OK to drop OMG’s (Oh, my God!)?”
Answer: No (with some qualification).
The obvious Scripture here is the 3rd of the 10 Commandments:
“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.” (Ex. 20:7)
There is a command and a consequence. The command is don’t take God’s name in vain and the consequence is judgment. This should get our attention.
But what does it mean? The word translated “vain” means worthless, empty, inconsequential or false. It means that the object is lacking in value. God says don’t take my name and empty it of value by making it another common, inconsequential word.
This is because God’s name is synonymous with his God-ness. His name has to do with his essence and his actions. In other words, God’s name is about who God is and what God does. This is precisely why we see such a connection with glory, worship and God’s name. Here are some examples:
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; Say also: “Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise. (1 Chronicles 16:10, 29, 35)
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. (Psalms 29:2)
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (Psalms 115:1)
Now back to the 3rd Commandment. If you take God’s name in vain you are insulting God. You are taking that which is supposed to be hallowed (set-apart, dedicated, consecrated) and making it a throw-away word. This is the exact opposite of what we are supposed to do with God’s name! It is entirely an uncommon name and never should be common! Christians are called to be people are pray that God’s name is hallowed and live to reflect that it is true. If we continue to carelessly toss God’s name around like a frisbee in the park then we are dishonoring God. It’s that simple.
Some may say, “This is not my intent. I’m not thinking like this.” I can understand this. But this is precisely the problem. God does want you to think about this. If you are carelessly and thoughtlessly using God’s name then his significance is not gripping your mind and heart. You may say, “You don’t know my heart.” This is exactly right, but think with me about the clear teaching of Scripture in terms of the imperatives—Don’t take God’s name in vain—as well as the narratives. God actually kills people who do not regard him as holy. One simple example is Nadab and Abihu.
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'” And Aaron held his peace. (Lev. 10:1-3)
They were killed by God because they did not regard God as holy. If you are going to know God then you must know God according to his terms. These terms are clear, from Genesis to Revelation, he and his name will be regarded as holy by all people.
You may think this is a little overboard. But perhaps God thinks you are a little “under-whelmed” with him. If you are carelessly and thoughtlessly dropping OMG’s then there is a glory gap that needs to be closed.
Remember, it is the trademark for the unbeliever to take God’s name in vain:
…your enemies take your name in vain. (Ps. 139:20b)
And it is the trademark for the believer to regard God and his name as holy:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. (Mt. 6:9)
The city I grew up in had a large population of Puerto Ricans. Whenever something bad would happen they would exclaim, “Diablo!” (Devil!) However, when the same thing would happen to a white guy we would reach for God’s name. There’s a lesson here somewhere.
If you are carelessly using God’s name as a throw-away word when you get upset or stub your toe, then you need to stop. And not just stop, but start regarding it and him as holy and uncommon. This is the place and posture of a true “Oh, my God!” (Ps. 25:2; 40:17)