Recently, my family and I were driving around town on errands and I heard, from the backseat, my youngest daughter exclaim, “Oh Em Gee Oh Ess Aitch!” (OMGOSH) I was thrown by the unfamiliarity of the phrase, but it got me to thinking: Why didn’t she just say “OMG?” After all it’s popular enough. For that matter, why didn’t she say “Oh My God?”
It occurred to me that we have been habitually reinforcing in her young mind to follow, as well as to respect the spirit of, the Ten Commandments, and one of those is, of course ‘Do Not Take God’s Name in Vain.”
I have argued, before that far too many people take this commandment the wrong way. After all, God’s name is not “God” right? It’s Who He is. He IS God. His NAME is something else altogether.
What It Meant
To understand this commandment, we have to understand the greater cultural context. It was common in the ancient world, and, to be sure, it still happens today without people realizing it, to swear an oath and to invoke whatever deity you happened to believe in to hold you accountable for that oath. There are many examples in the Old Testament (and even some in the New Testament) where people make an oath and use God’s name to increase the weight of their testimony.
(SIDENOTE: Even today in American legal courts, when one is sworn in, the oath usually ends with “so help you God”; meaning that you are swearing before God that the testimony you will give is truthful.)
In the book of Isaiah, we read that the prophet is rebuking them NOT for swearing in God’s name, but for falsely swearing:
Listen to this, you descendants of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and come from the line of Judah, you who take oaths in the name of the Lord and invoke the God of Israel— but not in truth or righteousness— you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city and claim to rely on the God of Israel— the Lord Almighty is his name: – Isaiah 48:1-2
So, this, then, is what the third commandment was addressing: don’t swear by God that something is true when it isn’t. I can do that, so why am I concerned with the ubiquitous “OMG?” Why am I so concerned with not saying it?
- It Is Unnecessary
- It Shifts My Focus
I’ve already mentioned that this invoking of God was meant to add credibility to your statement. Is that really important? Why should I , or anyone for that matter, need to add weight to what I have said? The final word on this, for me, was Jesus who said:
Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. – Matthew 5:33-37
So, when you swore “by God” you were essentially saying, “this is the real truth may God strike me dead if I’m lying.” Jesus said, we don’t have to do that. Just say “yes” or say “no” and let that be enough for everybody (because you keep your word you don’t HAVE to invoke God’s name to give your words extra weight or credibility). I, we, all of us, should be people of inherent credibility and reliability. When we say something, it should require no invocation of God, the earth, the moon, or anything to convey the faithfulness of our speech.
This is where I really got convicted. I started to realize that when I heard “OMG” or some variant (from myself or others), that it was in response to something unbelievable or shocking.
- “Oh my God! This cheeseburger is incredible!”
- “Oh, my God! I just got the power bill, and they’re going to cut us off if we don’t pay by tomorrow and we have no money in the bank.”
- “Hey, James, remember that idea you had for a product and were going to pitch to that company? I heard somebody beat you to it.” Oh, my God!”
Or something like that. In each of these examples (at least one of which is, admittedly, ridiculous) the “OMG” response reveals something about the place of importance each object has. In the first example, the person is actually acknowledging their god: their stomach. In the second, the acknowledgment is of the god of money. In the last, the god is an idea/product that was intended to create wealth and security.
SPOILER: None of these things are God.
I started to realize that this is what I was doing at least 99% of the time (granted there were times when I was actually pleading for God’s intervention in a situation): I was letting something else be god for me instead of God Himself. I was, albeit unintentionally, creating images and idols for myself to take God’s place. Therefore, I have to constantly remind myself:
- God, not the government, provides for my needs.
- God, not my bank balance, gives me security.
- God, not my doctor, provides for my physical and mental health.
- God, not my boss or my job, insures I have food on the table.
Granted, God may use all of those things to bless me (or even correct me), but it’s up to me to keep my brain fixed on God and make sure that He is in the right place in my life. It takes discipline to not be overwhelmed with the cares of this world. It takes a focused mind to stay fixed on God.
But it is so worth it.
[reminder]What do you think? Is the “OMG” thing an issue for you? Is it something else entirely? More importantly, how do you make sure God stays first in your mind and heart? How do you remember to trust Him above all others?[/reminder]