Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Litmus Test

I just finished reading our camp devotional for this morning that rubbed me the wrong way. The writer pulled out the 3rd of the Great Ten Commandments. "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). He then, like usual, applied this command to people texting "omg" or saying "swear to god" or "holy cow." Now I don't know this for sure, but I don't think God was so concerned about the Israelites speech patterns that he sent Moses up on a mountain to tell him about it. If you're going to pick only 10 commandments, you'd think they would be pretty darn important, right? Especially the 3rd one. Can I get an amen? (Why do people say that anyways?)

In my opinion taking the Lord's name in vain goes deep below the words or phrases that we say, far beneath the common sayings in our culture. Do we give glory to God in all that we do? If not, then we're breaking the 3rd commandment, which I probably break 80% of the time. I think that we take the Lord's name in pride when we speak from a root of pride, when we take credit for what is obviously (or not so obviously) the Lord's hand moving, when we presume that we know what is going to happen, even when we speak of what the Lord will do for us. Yes, I believe that Exodus 20:17 was intended to warn His people not to glorify themselves or take credit for what He has done.

Now let's go back to the beginning for a minute. Don't get me wrong. I think it's important to have clean and appropriate speech, but how would you define that? Cuss words are completely cultural. What is considered bad here in America may not be considered so bad in another country. Of course, we could substitute cutesy words for the bad ones, but does it really change the meaning? If I say "what the flipper," have I changed the meaning than if I said "wtf?" Or what about "oh my gosh," as opposed to "omg?" Or "shoot" instead of "shit?" My point is that a word is simply a word until you add the emotion behind the word, that is what gives it true, contextual meaning. And changing the word doesn't at all change the intended use of the word.

So what is the litmus test for word usage? "Do let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is useful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Eph 4:29

God is more concerned about our hearts, our intent, our motives, our actions. Let's take a look around us before we speak. What effect would whatever we were going to say have on the people around us? Would it build them up?

This is definitely something that I will be thinking about throughout the day. I struggle with sarcasm and a lack of tactfulness. I could use a litmus test for my speech, and the intended use of it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Andy Stanley has an interesting take on the 3rd commandment. He says you are to do nothing in the Lord's name that is not of Him. Throughout history many have done abominable acts and credited themselves with doing the Lord's work (slaver and Hitler come to mind). Therefore, you are not use his name in vain. Food for thought. Rachel Weir