April 2019

April 2019

Don’t Say, “Oh my God!”


Well, I said this would be a series on basic Christianity, and you can’t get much more basic than this: don’t say, “Oh my God!”

I was raised with a very strict application of the Second Command: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.” My brothers and I were forbidden from using any variation of God’s name for anything but worship or the serious discussion of the things of God. I vividly remember watching the movie Crocodile Dundee with my family. It’s a good movie, though there are some ungodly things in it. During one scene in particular, the reporter watches in awe as Mick Dundee hypnotizes a wild beast and compels it to let them drive past in their vehicle. The reporter’s response is to use the name of Jesus Christ, the name that is above every name, but she’s not using it to sing His praises or to worship Him. For her, it’s a thoughtless expression of amazement that has nothing to do with the Lord who saves His people from their sins, the Anointed of God. To their credit, my parents paused the movie and spoke to my brothers and me very seriously about why we should never use Jesus’ name as an expletive or a curse word. They would do that any time we encountered God’s name being taken in vain in movies or television. And of course never in my house growing up would you hear God’s name being used for anything other than prayer, praise, and the devout contemplation of the great works of God.

That’s why it has surprised me so much as an adult to hear so many lifelong Christians routinely using the expression, “Oh my God,” or any of its many variations. Nor is it limited to older Christians: our youth have enshrined the phrase in their texting dialect: “OMG!” Dear brethren in the Lord, this ought not to be so. God’s name ought to be held in awe among us.

Of course, the Second Commandment means more than not using God’s name as an expletive. As those who by Holy Baptism bear the name of our triune God, we take His name in vain by teaching false doctrine or leading ungodly lives. But as deeply as we might think about more spiritual ways of taking God’s name in vain, we ought never to lose sight of the simplest and most basic principle: in our speech, we should utter the name of God only when it means what it’s supposed to mean, not as a thoughtless expletive. As Luther explains it in the Small Catechism, “We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.”

Think about the times in your daily life when you use the words “God,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” “Lord,” and the like. When you use those words, are you actively praying? Are you intentionally praising God? Are you speaking seriously of the God who created you, who redeemed you by the shedding of His blood, who made you His own through Holy Baptism? Or are you cursing, or swearing, or just saying it as thoughtless filler when your mouth doesn’t know what else to say? Remember: “The Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

If you are in the habit of taking God’s name in vain, make the decision right now to change the way you speak. When you’re tempted to use God’s name as an expletive, take a step back and think about better ways of speaking. Approach God’s name as you would God Himself: with humility, fear, reverence, and love.

Don’t say, “Oh my God.” That’s basic Christianity!

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

Exodus 20:7

God's Blessings!

Pastor Neuendorf