God. Lord. Christ. Jesus. To the saints of God, His name is precious, holy, held in honor, and spoken in reverence. Or so it should be.

The psalmist spoke often of God's name. Psalms 54:6 "... I will praise your name, O LORD, for it is good." This and numerous other passages show the proper response to God's name.

Today, in and outside the church, God's name is used casually, callously, and cruelly. Using God's name as a swear word is not new, but perhaps it has become an epidemic in recent days. Radio, television, movies, magazines, web sites, and more, all regularly print this blasphemous use of the Lord's name. Teens say it without thinking and even young children have learned to imitate this coarse speech.

Christians are known as those who reverence (or fear) God's name (See Revelation 11:18). We know the One whose name we hold above all others (See Psalms 138:2, Philippians 2:9). When we hear misuse of the name of our God we cringe, as if slapped in the face, as we would if someone mocked a close friend or relative. In the face of this contempt we want to cry out, but "I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. (Psalms 145:1-2)" Or do we?

As one of the ten commandments, people have often heard, "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. (Exodus 20:7)" [Well, at least at one time they used to hear this -- the ten commandments have virtually disappeared in recent years.] Yet even those who can quote this commandment often don't think twice about misusing the name of the Lord. Do they think that God makes exceptions (for anger, or pain, or 'quoting others', etc.)? When God says He will not hold guiltless those who do this, we should listen.

Enemies of God (Colossians 1:21) should be expected to slander his name. What enemy has ever spoken highly of his foe. God, himself, points this out through the psalmist (the same one who taught that we are to praise God's name). Psalms 74:18 "Remember how the enemy has mocked you, O LORD, how foolish people have reviled your name." It can't get much clearer than Psalms 139:20 "They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name." How a person speaks of God shows which side they're on.

"Taking the Lord's name in vain" is any misuse of God's precious name -- any time we use it in a manner that does not ascribe to it the holiness it is due. So what about those professed Christians who can drop the name of God into exclamatory phrases without a second thought? Or what about those flippant jokes using God's name spoken even from the pulpit? It's time we started to ask these questions. When James wrote the following passage he contrasted the praise of God to the cursing of a man. How much worse is it when the same tongue will praise God and curse Him as well?

James 3:9-10 "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be."

How you respond to God's name is a reflection of your heart's condition. "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34)". When your heart is opposed to God, it's easy to speak ill of Him through the misuse of His name, when your heart is seeking to follow Him, His name is precious in your sight. Only a few breaths after Jesus spoke those words in Matthew 12:34, about the mouth speaking from the heart, he continued on to say: "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37)"

If your words were to judge you today, what would the judgment be?

"How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever? (Psalms 74:10)"