In Gosh We Trust
Holy cow! My word! Jiminy Crickets! When something surprising or unbelievable happens, what's your go-to phrase of exclamation? Over the past few years, I've adopted a conservative, "Oh my goodness!" as opposed to the previous, "Oh my God!" One of the Ten Commandments states, "Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain," which can also be understood as, "You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God." Ergo the question, "Is the phrase, 'Oh my God' considered making misuse of the Lord's name?
If used to convey the idea, "Wow, what I'm experiencing is so intense I need to be closer to God," then the idiom stands faultless in my opinion (Ha! Opinions! see Everyone Has One and They All Stink). I would bet however, more often than not as was my case personally, the phrase is thrown around with scant regard for fellowship with the Creator. It's kind of like a swear word I suppose.
Instead of saying, "Holy shit!" we're saying, "Oh my God!" Is "shit" worse than "God?" Is "God" worse than "shit?" God is THE shit in my book. He knows I'm a sinner. He knows that my heart is wicked and deceitful. His Word says that without Christ, even my best intentions are like filthy rags in His sight. It's doubtful He'll be impressed if I switch from, "Holy shit!" to "Oh my God." I avoid using both phrases when I remember to and stick with an innocent, "Oh my goodness." It just sounds less offensive. Plus, as a father, I'm keenly aware that children parrot everything they hear.
Have you ever heard a little kid say, "Oh my God!" or worse, "Jesus Christ!" in exclamation? It doesn't sound right. It's downright offensive to listen to. And you know the response isn't organic. The child learned it from television or parental influence. The fact that this topic is even of concern to me today stands as proof of the Holy Spirit's work on my heart. Growing up in a secular home, I dropped plenty a, "Oh my God," in conversation without reprimand from my parents. We didn't go to church, we didn't read the Bible, and there was no talk of God in our home. More a piece of slang than anything else, "Oh my God," was an interjection picked up from being a member of society.
A particular memory sticks with me however. I must've been a boy of eight or nine. My dad's friend had this brand new golf cart (we had a summer trailer in a campground in Pennsylvania and everyone got around by golf cart).
The phrase felt strange leaving my mouth. A split-second before choosing the words, something told me I was taking a gamble with this particular interjection. My father paused for a second before remarking, "Don't say that. It doesn't sound nice for a kid to say that." Even though I knew very little about Jesus, I learned that day that there's something special about His name. My dad was right. It didn't sound nice coming out of my mouth. Wait a minute! Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me." How could the name, "Jesus Christ," not sound nice coming from the lips of a child?
Often in life, it's not so much what you say, but how you say it. I wasn't speaking to Jesus that day. I wasn't telling others about Him. I wasn't crying out to Him or praising Him. I was taking His name and using it in place of a curse word. I suppose that's what it means to "take the Lord's name in vain" and misuse it. It's always been the "in vain" part of that commandment that confused me. I've always thought vanity was looking at one's self too much in the mirror. Like the piece of furniture women sit at to look at themselves while putting make-up on: a vanity.
Still not having taken my own advice about buying a dictionary (But I Digress...), I just looked up the definition of "vanity" on dictionary.com (I told you it was a wonderful resource!). Vanity can mean, "being excessively proud of or concerned with one's appearance," which doesn't really fit in with taking the Lord's name and making it a curse. However, an additional definition is, "ineffectual or unsuccessful; futile." Ah-ha! When I say, "Jesus Christ!" as a swear word, I'm not communicating with God. I'm cursing!
Cursing something with Jesus' name, I'm exercising futility. He's not some black magic, voodoo God who bends to my will and curses people and situations I'm displeased with! John 3:16 says, "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." God is in the business of grace, mercy, and blessing. Jesus name is life, not a curse! When used as an idiom in vain, the result is, "improper or irreverent." When "Jesus Christ", the name of the Creator of heaven and earth, is used in place of, "son of a bitch!" when I stub my toe, I'm using it improperly and irreverently.