You Shall Not Take the Name of The Lord In Vain: Bible Lesson And Life Application

by Dr. Michael L. Williams · Print Print · Email Email

The third commandment reads like this:

“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

Anyone who has been around awhile knows that language changes over time. If you told someone in the 1990s that you would Facebook them or send a tweet, they would have looked at you like you were crazy. Today not only have words changed, but the frequency of using the name of the Lord in non-religious conversation and cursing has exploded. For this reason a short Bible lesson on the third commandment along with its life application is important.

What is taking the name of the LORD in vain mean?

To answer this question, we should first ask, what does the word vain mean? The common definition of vain is (1): 1. Having or showing an excessively high opinion of one’s appearance, abilities, or worth. 2. Producing no result; useless.

From this word, we also get the word vanity, which is the attitude of excessive pride of one’s own appearance or accomplishments that are worthless in quality (2). A word that many would use today to describe someone who is vain is “narcissist.” Using these definitions, taking the LORD’s name in vain describes someone who uses God’s name to make themselves look good or in a way that is useless.

You Shall Not Take the Name of The Lord In Vain

What is the harm in taking the LORD’s name in vain?

The most obvious thing about taking the LORD’s name in vain is the fact that God said that He would not hold him guiltless that takes the LORD’s name in vain. Not holding someone guiltless means literally that God will not acquit someone of sin or declare them innocent. They are not blameless.

Why is this so? If you notice that the King James Bible spells the word LORD using uppercase letters. This signifies that it is Jesus that is being spoken of. Using uppercase letters, it indicates that the Hebrew word Adonai is used, which means master or owner. Adonai is the plural of the word Adon from which many languages use the word Don or Dom to denote a man or master of the family.

Simply stated, using the name of Jesus to draw attention to one’s self or in a way that is worthless in quality is literally rejecting the very fact that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah that died on the cross to pay for our sins. It is profaning the name of Christ. (Matthew 12:30-32) Those who do such things are denying Christ and cursing His name (1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 1:1:7). This is not something that believers do (Mark 9:39; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 John 3:23). If someone is sincerely rejecting the Christ, they are rejecting salvation itself and cannot be declared innocent of sin unless they repent and trust Christ (Matthew 12:30-32).

How does someone take the LORD’s name in vain?

The most obvious way is to use the name of the LORD as a cuss word. It is interesting that people who do not even believe in salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:8-10) in Christ are quick to exclaim “Jesus Christ!” or “God _____ it” or “Oh my God” with no hesitation. It makes one wonder, why do they use the name of the LORD in that way? Why do they not say “Oh Buddha!” or “For Mohammed’s sake!” as curse words?

Why? The reason that they do not use the names of others is that even in their unbelieving minds they unknowingly acknowledge that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby they must be save. Even in their reprobate thinking (Romans 1:28; Titus 1:16) they unknowingly acknowledge that God gave Jesus Christ a name above every name and that one day every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father (Romans 14:11-12; Philippians 2:5-11).

Hopefully, how the LORD’s name is used in vain is clear at this point. However, there is another way that most people do not think of that is also using the LORD’s name in vain. This is done when someone uses the fact that they are a Christian or a member of clergy for private gain. For example, some hospitals charge for parking, but ministers or Pastors can usually have their parking receipt validated because they are there to visit the sick. If they were not there to visit in in ministerial capacity and they try to have their parking receipt validated, they are using the LORD’s name in vain. Likewise, if someone uses their position in ministry to glorify himself or proclaim that they are in any way a modern version of Christ (Matthew 24:23-27) they are using the LORD’s name in vain.


What does the Bible say about using the LORD’s name in vain? It says that God will hold those who do so accountable for their sin. If we love God, our tongues should bring forth blessing and not cursing (Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 22:2; Psalms 35:24-28; Proverbs 21:23; James 3:1-10).

When it comes to using God’s name in vain, we should constantly be aware that everything that we say and do and the choices we make are an act of worship (Joshua 24:14-15). We should avoid even any appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22) and maintain a humble Godly attitude before Him and others (James 4:5-10; 1 Peter 5:5-6). This will demonstrate our thanks to God for His unspeakable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15), which will honor God’s holy name.

Read about the 2nd Commandment here: You Shall Not Worship Idols

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Google. (2014). “Vain”. Retrieved from Google: https: //www .google. com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=vain. (2) Google. (2014). “Vanity”. Retrieved from Google: https: //www. google. com/? gws_rd=ssl#q=definition+vanity

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Wayne Phillips March 15, 2017 at 7:53 am

507 likes and (at the time of writing) not a single comment! And this certainly isn’t the only place online that I’ve noticed indications of what I believe is fear to show Whose we are. For instance, I’m one of just a handful of members of ODB(dot)org (Our Daily Bread website) whose avatar shows my face.

Anyway, many thanks for your insight on this subject, but I shall dig deeper (as is my habit)!

Have a wonderful day, my brother.


Dee August 3, 2017 at 11:45 pm

It’s from the Old Testament. It doesn’t mean Jesus, it means God.


Jack Wellman August 4, 2017 at 8:58 am

Hello Dee. If anything angered the Pharisees and the other religious leaders in Jesus’ day, it was His claim to divinity, like the time He forgave sins and some people don’t like the fact that Jesus was the God of the Old Testament but it’s what the Bible teaches. They knew only God could forgive sins, and so they knew what He was claiming to be (Mark 2:7), but what they refused to see was that Jesus perfectly fulfilled the coming Messiah, and that He had existed long before His birthplace in Bethlehem did (John 1:1-2). It’s not that they didn’t have the head knowledge of this, because Jesus openly told them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” and the Jews knew that God’s name was “I AM” (John 8:58), but their only reaction was to pick “up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:59). Since Paul declares that “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:16), then He could not have been created, but rather, all things were created by Him. He is the Creator and acting with the Father and the Holy Spirit in perfect unity. Jesus is God and as God He has always existed and is outside of His creation and is the self-existent One (I AM) or “being” but there was a time when we were not a being, as not being around, and a time is coming when we’ll not be being here on earth, at least in the flesh, so Jesus has existed for all time and as God, will do so for all time. As God, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8), so was Jesus the God of the Old Testament, because some criticize the God of the Old Testament as being a harsh, judgmental, angry God? They see an angry God of the Old Testament verses a Jesus who loves and heals and helps everyone, but that narrow view of Jesus will be shattered someday. Just read the Book of Revelation. It’s not “Jesus, meek and mild,” that’s for sure, so is there no discrepancy between Jesus and the God of the Old Testament…and further, I say to you, Jesus was the God of the Old Testament, but did He act alone?

Jesus as the I AM

God told Moses to tell the children of Israel that “I AM Who I AM” and “I AM” has sent you (Ex 3:14), so I find it no coincidence when Jesus uses the same “I AM” statements when referring to Himself as the bread of life that came down from heaven” (John 6:41), and even when they came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said, “I Am He” and “they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6), so more than the Jews might have thought Jesus was more than a prophet. The Apostle Paul refers to that rock in the Old Testament as Christ because he wrote that all Israel “were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food (manna), and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1st Cor 10:2-4), and Jesus had already said He was the bread that came down from heaven, so there is no reason to believe that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament, but is this the case with all of the Old Testament? We can’t say for sure, so I won’t, so was this the same God in the Old Testament that existed in mentioned in the New Testament? It doesn’t matter because God does not change (Mal 3:6).


Dorothy September 26, 2017 at 5:25 pm

I throughly enjoyed this article…


lady July 3, 2019 at 11:43 pm

have you read John 3:16, then if you claim he is God of the OT and NT, then who died on the cross…1st Timothy 1:17 Now to the king eternal, immortal, invisible to God who alone is wise…can you tell me…1st John 2:22

can the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the sea and everything that is in it; can die, GOD is eternal…


Jack Wellman July 4, 2019 at 8:22 am

Jesus body died and was raised on the 3rd day. Just as our bodies will die but our spirit will go to heaven or hell. DO you believe Jesu is God? Jesus’ body died but Jesus as God cannot die. Does this help?


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