The Second Commandment, according to the Lutheran listing, has to do with the Name of God: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” And Luther’s explanation is as follows, “We are to fear and love God so that we do not use His name superstitiously, or use it to curse, swear, lie, or deceive, but call on Him in prayer, praise and thanksgiving.”
There is a tendency to think that this commandment is all about cursing, as when we assign God to the dam building business – if you catch my drift. And certainly using the precious and holy name of God as a curse word is using His name in vain, or in a useless manner. But cursing is just the tip of the iceberg in how we treat God’s name as though it were no big deal!
Luther, interestingly, believed that false teaching from the pulpit was an egregious misuse of God’s name, for the expectation from the minister of the pulpit is that God’s Word, which is utterly true, is being spoken. So when this assumption is used as a cloak for falsehood it is a grievous evil indeed!
Traditionally, in marriage the wife takes the name of her husband. Were she to take her husband’s name with no intention of being faithful to him or in honoring their marriage, we could say she had taken his name in vain. Just so in Baptism and by faith we take the Lord’s name (Christian). It is taken in vain if we have no intention to be faithful to Him!
Other ways of taking His name in vain include using His name superstitiously, like a good luck charm, or to swear an oath, to cover a lie, or in any manner to lie and deceive.
The Lord loves us so much that He has given us His name so that we might call on Him in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. By giving someone your name you give them a way to get ahold of you. No wonder God doesn’t want His name used in vain!
Since You Asked…
What is the Christian’s Hope?
In a word, it is the resurrection of the body to life everlasting in the world to come. This is more accurate and complete than just saying “life after death.” It is also more helpful than saying “going to heaven.” When Jesus returns at the end of the age to judge the living and the dead, baptized believers will be raised bodily! They will share in a resurrection similar to Jesus’ resurrection. And being in his presence on that day and for all eternity is not just a matter of escaping to heaven, but living in his presence in the new heaven and earth. The Lord intends to renew and restore his creation. So our central hope is the resurrection of the dead, with believers inheriting the Kingdom.