Thursday, October 26, 2006

Be Careful Little Lips...

"Be careful little lips what you say,
Be careful little lips what you say.
For the Father up above is looking down in love.
Be careful little lips what you say."

Exodus 20:7
“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."

In this day and age, most people look at words as either good or bad. "That's a bad word" they'll say. But what is it about a word that makes it bad?

In preparing for this post, I listened to a message by Al Mohler on The Third Commandment.

Al Mohler says, "Words are among the most powerful of the potent tools at our finite disposal."

Words are powerful.

Proverbs 10:11 "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence." and verses 19-20: "When words are many, transgression is not lacking,but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;the heart of the wicked is of little worth."

Al Mohler also makes this statement: "This is perhaps the commandment most routinely broken by evangelicals. Broken in our discourse with each other, broken in our piety, and broken in our worship."

One of the distinctives about Israel, and the children of God is to be their speech about God. His name must be spoken and heard with reference.

I am that I AM. God reveals His name to us. Our Father in Heaven reveals this to us, not flesh and blood. It is a name about which God Himself is jealous. He just finished telling us that He is a Jealous God.

Exodus 20:5 "You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God"

It is no small thing that we should know His name. In giving to us His name, the Father has given Himself to us.

That is why we must honor His name. In honoring His name, we honor Him.

He is The Almighty, The Amen, The Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, Eternal, Faithful, The Holy One, The Just One, The King Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, The Light, The Judge, The Word, The Creator, Lord of Glory, Lord of Kings, Lord of lords, Lord of Peace, King of Heaven, God Alone, El Shaddai, Jehovah-Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts), Rock of Ages, Yahweh, and The Majesty on High.

He is filled with zeal for His name -> Ezek. 36:22-23 "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

He has allowed His name to be spoken and manipulated and even maligned by sinful creatures. Soon after He gave us His name, it was violated. Sin is a blight upon the name of God. He will not allow His name to be blasphemed without vindication (vs 23 above).

Al Mohler says, "What if the Third Commandment isn't as simple as we thought it was? Maybe there is a hidden danger here that would endanger our very souls, and endanger the very reputation of God; a reputation which He sill vindicate."

He then goes on to explain how this is true.

To understand the name of God is to understand the power of the name. It is a revelation of His character, His Holiness. God has the sole right to define and to name Himself. Taking His name in vain treats Him like an idol.

We often take His name in vain in our piety. We often take God as trite, and don't honor Him as we should. God wants us rich in the knowledge of His name.

We often take His name in vain by superficial worship. We can think that worship must be happy, fun, or creative. He points out that worship demonstrates what we genuinely believe. We do not take His name seriously if we think worship is about anything other than God and God alone.

We take His name in vain by our manipulative God talk. We have no right to speak where God has not spoken. His name is taken in vain when we speak in His stead.

**This is where I would like to jump in to clarify the point he is making. Many people think that you are only taking His name in vain if you actually say His name. This is not true. You are taking His name in vain when you even say something that should only be said by God. For instance, only God can punish and damn the wicked. It is not our place to do that. When we use that word in any given situation, we are using His name in vain because we are taking His place. I will comment on this further later on.**

Al Mohler concludes by saying that this commandment extends "to everything we touch, and everything we think that is even remotely theological or spiritual. It extends to the totality of our lives because God makes total claim upon us by His name. We should be zealous and careful to honor His name with Godly reverence. There will come that day when every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."


Alright. I agree with everything he said, but I would like to clarify a few things, and add a few things...

A) First, like I said earlier, taking God's name in vain does not just mean that we are actually saying His name. If we say something that is reserved for God, and God alone to say, we are actually using His name in vain. In a sense, we are saying that we are on the same level with God, and therefore qualify to make the same statement that God would. Most curse words fall into this category.

I have had people say this: "Saying 'Oh my God' isn't saying His name in vain." I don't understand how they could say this. It is very clear. When you say that, you are using His name. He has declared His name as Holy. When you say that, you are not using His name in reverence. defines vain as:
1. Without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or worthless
2. Without effect or avail; to no purpose
3. In an improper or irreverent manner

When you say, "Oh my God", are you saying His name with significance, value, or importance? Are you using His name for a purpose? Are you using it properly or in a reverent manner? I doubt you can answer yes to those questions, and therefore, it is taking His name in vain.

B) There are some words that are called "bad words" that don't really fall into either of these two categories though: They aren't God's name, and they aren't something reserved for God alone to say. Now, I am going to assume you have an idea about what words I'm using, because I'm not going to put them up here.

Ephesians 4:29-30 says, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. "

There are words that fall into the category of corrupt talk. We are clearly told by Scripture to not use those words either. I believe that most of you understand this.

C) However, I present to you a possibly new proposition. Before I tell you what it is, I want you to know that I am the worst offender of this. That however, does not make it right.

I would submit to you that even substitutionary words would be using the name of the Lord in vain, or would be corrupt talk. Words such as "gosh, flippin', darn, dang, and others..." Why do I believe that these words are wrong to use?

Matthew 12:34 "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."

Matthew 12:36-37 "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

We are going to give an account for every careless word that we speak. And, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Why are you using those words? It is generally because you want to say something similar, but don't want to say a bad word. God looks at the hearts of men.

Luke 16:15 "And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts."

God doesn't look only at what you say; He looks at why you're saying it. When you are asked to give an account for those words, what are you going to say?

Just because we choose to use substitutionary words on the outside does not change our hearts.

And even if you don't agree with my arguments against substitutionary words, think of it this way: When you use them, you are using them in a complaining way almost every time.

Philippians 2:14-15 "Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world"

Scripture is clear. We are to do ALL things without grumbling or questioning.

Substitutionary words are words that I know that I use a lot. But that does not justify them. I am sobered when I realize that I will one day give an account for every careless word, and every substitutionary word.

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.


Peter Wilson said...

btw. I HIGHLY recommend listening to Al Mohler's message on this commandment. It is a great resource on this topic.

Sam B. said...

Excellent post, Josh. I admit, this was hard for me to read because I am one of the biggest offenders when it comes to saying Oh my gosh, darn, shoot, and other such substitutes. And as much as I hate to admit it (not wanting to change and all), I think you're right. I use the words because I want to express a concept similar to a curse word without using a word generally accepted as a curse word. And that would seem to be violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. I do think there are times where it is not sinful or careless to use such words, but I also think that those times are much fewer than I'd like to admit. Thanks for the thoughts, Josh, and thanks for the Scriptures.

Paulucus said...

Good post. I would only add one reason for not using substitutes. But before that, I also want to say that I think any "word" that is a distortion of one of God's names is in an entirely seperate category from other substitutes. Why? Because no matter how crude, none of those words really violate the third commandment. But phrases that originated as taking the Lord's name in vain are not made less profane by switching a few letters i.e. gosh, jeez, golly ect. Actually, I would argue that they are more dangerous and often more profane. As Josh quoted,
Matthew 12:36-37 "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
There are many passage like this in the Bible (especially in the gospels and Revelation) where it is clear that we are to be judged according to what we have DONE. I do not think that there is scriptural support to say we are judged for our motives. No. We are judged for what we say and what we do. Let no one say that they are innocent because they were not "thinking less of God" when they said "oh my gosh". It doesn't matter. They spoke profanely and insulted his holiness. Words like darn and heck are the same, except that they only insult one aspect of God's holiness rather than all of it at once (his justice). To use these words it to treat Hell and damnation and God as if they were nothing to be afraid of. This is honestly one of the things that vexes me the most when I look at the American church today and especially at CLC and even Sovereign Grace Church of Frederick. I always worry when I look around and see many people more godly than I routinely committing what I see to be a grievous sin. But so what if I'm wrong? I will make my position known to my friends, but I will not judge them. If God is not offended by such words, I can at least worship him by my abstinance from those words. And honestly, what could anyone possibly lose from not using those words?

Josh T said...

I whole-heartedly agree Paul. Thank you.

Lizzy said...

Thanks for the great post (umm, whoever that was). And thanks for that Paul. Since like last spring (europe i guess) I'd been trying not say 'gosh' anymore, and i guess i'd been doing better for a little while but have slipped back into it lately. It seems harder, doesn't it, when so many people around you are saying it? I pick up on stuff like this really easily (one reason I don't like to watch movies, etc. with a lot of cussing) and I haven't been nearly as careful to guard my speech as I should... For those of you who see me more often I'd appreciate immediate correction if you hear me saying 'gosh' (or anything else offensive). I'd never thought about darn like that before, but I see where you're coming from. Thank you.

A situation I found sadly ironic: the other day I heard a Christian use the phrase "Oh my God." An unsaved friend of mine won't use this phrase or others like it ("Oh Christ", etc.) when around me, or if she does immediately apologizes - I never even asked her not to use these phrases, she just started doing it on her own. (Yes there is a difference in that she is doing this out of respect for my beliefs, not respect for God, but still...)

Paulucus said...

As it says in your mission statement thing, "We're holding fast to the truth of God's Word, and especially the truth of the Gospel." It is important not to lose track of the gospel in these discussions. "What in the world do the words 'darn' and 'gosh' have to do with the gospel?" someone might say. Quite a lot. Damnation is God's Holy wrath from which we were saved. We dare not make light of that by changeing a letter and using it as a one word complaint (or whatever else). GOD is the one who saved us from our sins. Our response should be to glorify him forever. The word "gosh" makes light of his name instead of glorifying him. Let us be careful not to start making a legalistic list of words not to say rather than training ourselves to recognize sin and insults to God's holiness. The Devil is a schemer. He (along with people) will always be inventing new ways to slander God's holiness and his justice.