Can You Accidentally Break the Third Commandment?

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Recently, David de Bruyn has been insightfully plowing up the ground of the third commandment. But in my context, another question has been raised.

I have heard church members commonly say under their breath, “Isus” or merely “Sus” as an exclamation when something surprising happens, as they’re playing ball, or just in general language as a “filler.” However, this comes from the Afrikaans’ name for Jesus Christ. As such, they are breaking the third commandment if it is strictly interpreted.

Is it possible to dishonor God’s name even if you are using a language that you do not know? Is this kind of dishonoring so serious that it should be church disciplined?

The first question I’d answer in the affirmative. But for the second question, I would lean toward the negative for these reasons.

1. We are all ignorant about God to some degree at all times on all issues. All sins are committed within the context of some kind of ignorance. Yet this lack of knowledge does not remove our culpability seeing as we have a responsibility to prize God, thinking clearly and consistently enough about Him that we will be able to obey all His commands perfectly.

2. The Bible has examples of people who sinned ignorantly. When Uzza touched the Ark of the Covenant, he was probably not thinking that he would be required to pay the ultimate price for that seemingly insignificant action.  (1 Chronicles 13)

The next question is trickier to answer for me. How should the church posture itself toward someone who openly takes the Lord’s name in vain, but yet wants to join the church and be involved? I want to say “Yes” but can I?

The name of God represents His infinite dignity. So young people in church should not be allowed to speak of it in a flippant, trite, or passing manner. But our God is a Father who knows that we are dust. So young believers should receive from us a generous allotment of time as they grow in this particular command.

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About Seth

Planting churches with the Baptist Confession in one hand and Tolkien in the other.
This entry was posted in Ethical dilemmas, Orthopathy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Can You Accidentally Break the Third Commandment?

  1. When 3 of us pastors wives taught on the names of God, Michelle brought up this point–even how many of us say “Lord’ repeatedly when praying, yet not thinking what that name means. Or when we sing songs with the names of God, and we are saying the words without thinking what they mean. That is really taking the name of God in vain–not seriously; empty. Made me think of how seriously do I hold God’s name even if I am not “swearing.”

  2. David says:

    Wow, it looks like you telepathically read Friday’s upcoming post! How ’bout you write them for me, and I take the credit?

    • Seth says:

      Maybe if I could turn a phrase like you, that little work on the side would help me purchase the complete works of Roger Scruton.

  3. Paul says:

    Too deep for an old man like me.
    I fear to take the Lord’s name in vain, even accidentally. I guess that sounds Pharisaical. I do believe that it is a learned fear.
    You related how Uzza should have respected the Arc and paid the ultimate price. Well, that’s true. But, he had previously learned in his studies, or should have, and was trying to bypass the Lord’s commands about how to transport the Ark.
    I think the same is true for us believers, old and young. As senoir believers we are to disciple them and teach them. Then they can be responsible, to the Lord, for their behavior.

  4. johngoossen says:

    Thanks for this post. I have been thinking a lot about this topic over the last year.

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