August 1, 2010: The Forgotten Sin

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we ask that you inscribe in our minds the importance of the 2nd commandment. Teach us to use Your name wisely in a way which always honors and uplifts You. Yes, teach us the importance of what it really means to be holy. Amen


TEXT: Exodus 20: 7: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

Chip, chip, chip. Sculptors slowly chip away at marble, reducing most of it to forgotten rubble in order to reveal the beauty of the statue inside. Chip, chip, chip. The rain and wind eat away at that work of art and slowly but surely reduce it to nothingness. My friends, this is exactly what is happening today when it comes to God’s holy name. To the ancient people of Israel, God’s most holy name, His special name: Jahweh, or Lord, was considered too holy for them to even say out loud. But today, what has happened? “God” or “Jesus Christ” gets tossed around in conversation as a throw away line. People have tried to strip it of its holiness and the special awe it should evoke. It’s all so sad. Moreover, if you look closely at the words of the 2nd commandment, it’s also dangerous for those people to do. For note well that God says: “I will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses My name.”

With those thoughts in mind, today I want to talk to each of you about:



When Dr. Luther compiled the catechism, specifically the 10 commandment section of it, he drew from this passage out of Exodus and others that relate to it. Thus, we have all learned it this way: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Following that he provides us with this explanation: “We should fear and love God, so that we do not curse, swear, practice witchcraft, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.”

Why did God pick the order He used when giving us the commandments? Obviously all of them are important, but one logically follows the other. Thus, although the 1st commandment is all-important, the 2nd one is directly tied to it. It is not to be overlooked, or forgotten.

First off, God’s name is special. It identifies Him to us. Although the ancient Hebrews had various synonyms for God, the one that especially stands out is: Jahweh. It means: The God Who Is. He has being. He has existence. All time is wrapped up in Him. In Him there is no past or future, only present reality. This reveals that in Him infinity is contained. Moreover, since God’s Son is true God, infinity is contained in His very flesh. Or as St. Paul points out in our epistle from Colossians: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ.” Also, remember that passage: “God is love.” And God reveals His infinite love for us in Jesus Who came to take away our sins by dying on the cross for all our sins, including all those we conveniently forget….

Because of this, God wants us to use His name wisely to proclaim His love and to honor Him for His sacrifice in saving us. Or, as Luther points out, use it to “pray, praise, and give thanks.” Conversely, He doesn’t want us to misuse His name by employing it via cursing, or asking God to send evil upon another; or swearing, or using it to give weight to our own words which may or may not be truthful. Likewise, we should not dabble with evil via supernatural witchcraft which puts Satan on par with the Almighty; and we should not make use of God’s good name by trying to hide our hypocrisy behind it. In short, be careful to use God’s good name wisely in a positive fashion.


Most of us know these things almost instinctively. However, very often you hear people say things which show they have given themselves over to this forgotten sin. That is, in daily speech they stud their words by throwing in: “God” or “Oh, my God” or even the occasional “Jesus Christ!” From context, it’s obvious they are not using God’s name to pray, praise, or give thanks. Instead, they just thoughtlessly hurl it out there. I tell my confirmation kids, “How would you feel if the kids at school used your name in that fashion? How would you feel if they said: ‘Sally, it’s hot outside today.’ Or, ‘O my Mark, that test was hard!’? Obviously you wouldn’t feel too good about it. It would be very disrespectful of you. Well, so it is with God.”

So, what do you, as a Christian, do when people thoughtlessly throw God’s name around at work? Yes, you can ignore it. But mindful of God’s injunction to not hold such folks guiltless, is that really “loving your neighbor?” Better to watch your own language and also come up with a nice stock response such as: “Please don’t disrespect my Lord that way, I’m a Christian.” Or, if they need to think a bit, ask them: “Are you praying right now?” After they give you a blank stare, say: “Well, you were using God’s name out loud, so I thought you must be praying.”

I’ve noticed that many Christians also fall into the trap of the forgotten sin. These same people wouldn’t dream of having an affair, or stealing something, but they, too, often use “God” or “Jesus” as a throw away line. After all, everyone else does it. It is just so commonplace, isn’t it? But as people specially blest by the Almighty, is that really how we should use His name? Would we do the same thing with our wife’s name, or parent’s name, or our children’s name?

One last item to remember when dealing with the Forgotten Sin; that is, the special name by which we know God also points us to Christ. When we hear the word: God, as believers we think immediately of Jesus. We think of His love for us. We think of His forgiveness won for us. We think of eternal life, or of resting safely in His arms. Remember also, to think about how He suffered our guilt for breaking this forgotten commandment. In fact, never forget about Him suffering so that you wouldn’t have to eternally. And then be comforted with His words: “Never will I leave nor forsake you!” Yes, always praise His holy name!—The reasons for doing so are truly infinite! Amen