July 11, 2007

(Mis)Using God's Name

Leviticus 24:10-16

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God." Exodus 20:7


Maybe you've heard the story about a boy who was tending sheep in the fields. The villagers told him to call for help in case a wolf came prowling. After some time the boy thought he would test the system. He yelled out, "Wolf!" and the villagers came running. But there was no wolf.

After the boy pulled this prank a few more times, the villagers didn't trust him anymore. Eventually a wolf really did come, and when the boy cried for help, everyone ignored his calls--with devastating results.

The point, of course, is that if you cry "Wolf!" make sure you mean it.

What does this have to do with using God's name? Just this: words can be used to manipulate. If we misuse God's name or use it loosely, we will end up losing something. God intends for us to use his name with integrity so as to know him and connect with him.

This challenges the easy way some people use God's name to express their feelings. We also need to be careful about how easily we grow accustomed to listening to others use God's name as a swear word. In addition, those of us who sing religious songs or participate in religious readings must make sure we are sincere when we use God's name.

If you use it, mean it; it's not just a name, it's God's.

Lord, we don't want to use your name loosely or wrongly, even when we use it religiously. Help us to use your name only with respect in connection with you. Amen.

About the author — Henry Kranenburg

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