Third Commandment

Of the Ten Commandments given to us in both (Exodus 20:2-17) and (Deut5;6-21), only one has a punishment promised for the violator! It seems to me that it must be the most important commandment, and not to be taken lightly. It is sad how many modern-day translations didn’t get the translation correct! Some say “do not take the name of the LORD in vain”, while others say “Don’t misuse the name of the LORD”. There is a huge gap between the two meanings, as they have nothing in common, except the LORD’s name!

Accepted Meaning

The common misunderstanding of this Commandment, is that it refers to something we say. That misunderstanding is responsible for people believing that if they say “Gosh darn”, “Dog Gone”, “Jeepers” or other mispronounced, yet totally intentional attempt to avoid damnation by … pronunciation? Somehow, we believe that these little “tricks” prevent the promised punishment for the violator!

From Paramout Pictures

Here’s the complete Third Commandment, because many people don’t know the second part even exists!

Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God, because the LORD will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses his name.

Christian Standard Bible.

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

New American Standard Bible

Remember, no other commandment has such a promise. Oh yes, the Second Commandment promises to punish your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, but you are the one who gets away free! But, this article is not about that one. I am sure that there are many more such “mispronunciations” in many languages in a vain attempt to escape!

Breaking It Down

What if the original English translations got it right? Let’s say that there are three parts to this commandment:
1. “taking the name” and,
2. “in vain” and,
3. “not being unpunished”, (that’s a double negative) or a GUARANTEE that you will be punished!

Guarantee? By God? I do believe you absolutely cannot escape paying the punishment for this one. Sounds like even the cross doesn’t cover it!

Side note: According the the Bible, you cannot confirm a truth unless it is corroborated by 2 witness. Also, there is an “unforgiveable sin”, and it is mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New. That’s another article, but do realize that there is a sin that cannot be forgiven!

Breaking It Down Further

Time to break it down, as they say. One way that you can find the definition of a word, or phrase, is in how it is used. Check any dictionary, and you will (almost always) find a “usage” of the word to help explain what it means. For example:

an emotional or other connection between people: the relationship between teachers and students.

from as part of the definition for “relationship”.

So, let’s do the same, starting with “in vain”. If we want to see what “in vain” means, let’s use it in a sentence. “They searched the swamp all right for the little girl in vain.” or “In vain did the wide receiver stretch his arms out to catch the pass.”

In these sentences, it sounds like both the search for the little girl, and the wide receiver … failed to accomplish what they wanted. It was the same result or consequence as if they had never even tried! So it is about a “failed action”. So you do something, and it doesn’t work.

Back to the first part, “take the name”. When do we commonly see this almost every day? Well, at least on most weekends?

Photo by Ana Paula Lima on

Yes, at a wedding. The bride (often) takes the groom’s last name, as my wife did. She does it voluntarily. So, what really changed? Just her name? Of course not. We think of both of their lives making changes. If they love partying, they now do it together. They have committed to each other, and have forsaken other relationships. Every relationship changes after that wedding!

Alternative Meaning

So, if her/their behavior before the marriage is the same as her behavior after the marriage, we can say she “took his name in vain”. It’s as if she never tried to take his name. Not for real. No commitment.

So, what if I had done this, I had “taken the name of the Lord in vain”. The name of the LORD is Jesus Christ, and I took His name when I told people that “I am a Christian”. So, if I call myself a Christian, but it doesn’t really mean anything, I have done it in vain.

I am a “fake Christian” in that case. In other words, telling the world that I am a Christian when Christ and I do NOT have a personal relationship GUARANTEES that I will be punished if that does not change. Remember that verse:

‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.’

English Standard Version.

So, being “lukewarm”, which sounds a lot like not really being a Christian but claiming to be one, is not good a place to be.

Where are you?

If you are not a Christian, I know why you are not, and I understand. It’s just about impossible to believe in a person you have never met, nor read anything about their place in history. Simply put, you have not met Jesus. You have no hard, solid evidence that He exists. In a similar way, you know that there is an author for this blog, and you know some things about me. However, you and I don’t have a personal relationship so there is room for doubt about a lot of things. It makes sense to me!

If you ARE a Christian, you have met Jesus and have no option to honestly deny His existence. Oh, you can get frustrated by or angry at Him, but you can’t deny him! It’s okay, He can handle it. He also is calling you back to getting to know each other better. Let Him get to know you because you reveal yourself to Him. (Don’t let Him say, “I never knew you.”)

There really is no middle ground, no place to be “lukewarm”. Not for long anyway, you really need to decide which way you lean. If you have never met Him, you can ask Him to reveal Himself to you tomorrow, and then look for Him in your day. He GUARANTEES He will show up.

Please comment and/or respond to what you heard inside of you as you read this! Let’s share!

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