The Ten Commandments are laws that are meant to be followed. God created them for a reason. He’s not a forceful dictator who creates rules to make our lives difficult. He’s a loving Father who knows what’s best for His children.
We obey these laws because we love the Lord and desire to follow Him.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
The Second Commandment
The second commandment is: You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
Because of how frequently we hear God’s name being used in casual and disrespectful ways, I often wonder if people know of this commandment; know what it means; and know that we sin when we break it.
The Lord’s name is holy and meant to be used reverently. When we pray “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” we acknowledge the sacredness of God’s name.
The term “to hallow” is to be understood here […] above all in an evaluative sense: to recognize as holy, to treat in a holy way. And so, in adoration, this invocation is sometimes understood as praise and thanksgiving (Catechism 2807).
Here are examples of both reverent and irreverent uses of His name. There are many more examples, but I’m not going to list them. I just want to give you an idea of what I mean.
- “O my God, I love You!” – prayer, reverent
- “Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem.” – stating a fact, reverent
- One is surprised and says, “Oh my God!” – taking the Lord’s name in vain, irreverent
- One is angry and says, “Jesus Christ!” – taking the Lord’s name in vain, irreverent
If we pay attention to the way people communicate in conversations, TV, movies, songs, and social media, we witness the second commandment being broken continuously.
We even witness children using God’s name irreverently. (For example, “OMG” has become a popular phrase.) Children follow what they see and hear around them, and they’re not always corrected by adults. If they speak this way now, it will become a habit that continues as they get older.
Determined to Change
When I was younger, I heard inappropriate phrases and didn’t think it mattered when I said them too. I didn’t normally curse in conversation, but I did take the Lord’s name in vain by saying “Oh my God.”
In my mid-twenties, I learned more about my faith and the Church’s teachings. I learned that taking the Lord’s name in vain seriously hurts Him and is a sin that breaks the second commandment!
After becoming aware of this, I decided to change. Through determination, practice and prayer, I stopped using irreverent words and phrases.
I’ve become extremely sensitive to the way the Lord’s name is used. I actually cringe when I hear disrespectful words and phrases now. (I even felt uncomfortable providing irreverent examples above.)
If I feel offended when I hear His name being used inappropriately, imagine how He feels!
Encouragement and Suggestions
For those who did not know of the second commandment and/or are not careful of your language, I encourage you to remove irreverent language from your life.
For those who think it’s impossible to stop taking the Lord’s name in vain, I’m here to tell you it is possible! We’re meant to control our language and behavior; I do this and so do many others.
If you’re not sure how to begin, you can:
- Pray. When your language slips, pray “Forgive me Lord” or “I’m sorry Lord.”
- Eliminate entertainment with irreverent language. When we engage in entertainment with disrespectful language, we become accustomed to hearing it and then use it ourselves. When we remove it from our presence, we’re less likely to use it.
- Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you’ve taken God’s name in vain, go to Confession. He’s merciful and forgives all our sins. When we receive the sacraments, we receive many graces. These graces help us overcome faults and break habits of sin more easily than when we try on our own.
- Enforce consequences. Remember when soap was put in children’s mouths when they cursed? I’m not telling you to put soap in your mouth, but think along those lines. For example, when your language slips, put one dollar in a jar. At the end of the month, donate the money. You’ll change quickly if there are visible consequences.
For those who are already careful of their language, I encourage you to continue on this path. If people around you take His name in vain, you can:
- Pray. Make reparation by praying “Lord have mercy” or “I love You Lord.”
- Act. Make an outward sign of reparation by bowing your head and/or making the sign of the cross.
- Politely ask others to watch their language. People may not realize their words are disrespectful. If you’re worried about their reaction, focus on the comfort God will feel when you stand up for Him.
- Share this post. By sharing through email or social media, you make people aware without having to say anything. (The “share” buttons are at the end of every post.)
For all of us, I recommend the prayer below. Jesus gave it to Sister Mary of St. Peter, a Carmelite Nun, in 1843. This important prayer consoles the Lord and heals the many wounds He receives from blasphemy.
The Golden Arrow: May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most mysterious and unutterable Name of God be always praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified in Heaven, on earth and under the earth, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.
As Christians, we’re called to be strong witnesses of our faith. Whether we realize it or not, others observe the way we live and it impacts the way they live. When we strive to be loyal disciples of the Lord, those around us are encouraged to do the same.
In this new year, let’s show God that we love Him by keeping His commandments. Let’s show God that we love Him by always honoring His holy name.