Commandment #5 came with a promise; this one comes with a warning. “For the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” This is serious. Very serious.
On the surface, this command seems to be about blasphemy, using the name of God or the name of Jesus as an expletive or swear word. These days it is sadly very common, but it’s one that dishonours and belittles God. It should offend us to hear others do it, and we should not do it ourselves. And if we find ourselves slipping into that habit, we should repent and ask for God’s help to stop. But this command goes much further than that.
God’s name implies his authority, so the command also means we must not use his name to justify or approve of things that go against God’s word or character. As a Bible teacher, claiming to teach God’s word faithfully, if I encouraged or excused greed or racism or sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage, I’d be misusing God’s name. If I discouraged witnessing to those of other religions, or watered down the authority of God’s word, or got so party political that I hindered your prayers for all our political leaders, I’d fall into the same trap. And the clear warning here is that God would hold me to account.
But this isn’t just about pastors; all Christians can fail here. For example: When we say we follow Jesus but our lives clearly tell a very different story; God’s name is dishonoured. When we are quick to denounce the sins of others but fail to speak of or live out God’s grace; God’s name is dishonoured. When we seek a position of power within the church for our own purposes, rather than for the glory of God, we misuse God’s name. And that is no small thing. God will call us to account.
Friends, God’s name is precious and holy and his reputation should be guarded. All Christians are walking advertisements for God. That’s why our words matter and our lives matter. Let’s seek to honour God’s name and not misuse it.