Over the past few weeks, I’ve had several conversations with friends and relatives about the ever-increasing public usage of the f-bomb. It’s everywhere, and no one seems to care much. It’s like the f-word is the new “darn” or “dang” or “crap” or “gosh golly gee.” And I hate it. I really do. Just hearing or seeing any reference to the blasted slang-word makes me sickish in my stomach. What could be worse than that awful thing?
Well, I’ve had an interesting journey with “bad words.” I used to think the f-word was indeed the worst possible word anyone could utter. But over the years, I have instead come to believe that exclaiming “OMG!” or “Jesus Christ!” (taking God’s name in vain) is a much, much worse offense.
It’s right there in the 10 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) Here’s the definition of “vain:” adj, producing no result; useless. And here are some synonyms–futile, useless, pointless, to no purpose, hopeless. (John Piper eloquently explores the meaning of this commandment in greater detail in this short article.)
So, I have taught my kids first and foremost not to take the Lord’s name in vain, and then I have taught them a list of other words that are also unacceptable to say.
And just when I thought I had arrived and I started to pat myself on the back for being such a good parent… I discovered that I myself was consistently breaking this very commandment. Up to several times a day, I was saying “God bless you” when people sneezed!
“Oh Pooky, you can’t be serious!?”
Oh, but I am. Seriously, I wasn’t really prayerfully asking God to bless the sneezer. I was flippantly using God’s name as a cliche–the very definition of taking God’s name in vain. I have to admit, I had to repent. In the midst of all my self-righteousness, God revealed to me how ignorant I am concerning the hidden depths of my own sinful heart.
I do detest the accelerating crudeness of our culture– f-words, OMGs, violence, and sex galore. But I no longer expect anything more from a Godless population. I just hope the language of Christ-followers (me especially) is glorifying to God. I am fairly certain that God is not nearly as concerned with an unbeliever using the f-word as he is with me, one of his children, a Christian, using his name carelessly. It is probable that numerous words I speak on a daily basis (e.g., complaining, gossiping, and even inadvertent sneeze-blessing) are more grievous to God than any vulgar profanity I hear on the street or read on facebook.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” –Psalm 139: 23-24