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—NKJV

You will notice in this column that I capitalize the nouns and pronouns referring to God and anything alluding to Him. Capitalization is designed to force into the written language a form of emphasis. From grade school we were taught that each sentence deserves a capital letter to emphasize a new thought package; each person deserves to have his name begin with a capital letter to emphasize his personhood; each geographical place name deserves to stand out with a capital letter; and God deserves to be honored with appropriately placed capital letters.

I have noticed throughout my adult life a sharp falling away from good habits of capitalization in the public arena. With the advent of texting, there appears to be the removal of almost every vestige of capitalization. God’s Name does not get the respect of the extra effort to create a capital “G” even from those who call themselves Christians.

Most people think that this verse from the Ten Commandments is designed for one purpose only: to keep men and women from using God’s Name in any form of cursing. A closer look shows that the verse is directed at a broader range of human activity, and the injunction against cursing is only a practical application of a more central truth.

The Name of the Lord is descriptive of more than letters on a cell phone or a word spoken by mouth. We know what we mean when we try to protect our “good name.” God’s Name stands for everything connected with Him, every thought and feeling which is aroused in the mind when mentioning, hearing or remembering Him. It stands for rank, character, authority, excellencies and deeds. His good Name stands as His true representation in all His purity and status. This is why it is always worth the little extra effort to capitalize any word remotely alluding to our Creator in order to honor His Supreme Personhood.

To “take” means to lift up and carry. It is symbolic of assuming the status of His representative in things such as contracts and human interactions as if a man’s very integrity was verified and clothed with the integrity of God above. This applies to both believers and non-believers. Do we need to be reminded that Christians bear about the good Name of the Lord 24/7? And the thoughtless, cursing fool uses words which, in effect, “take” up the Name of the Lord in a blasphemous prayer of imprecation, condemnation, exclamation, or surprise. Knowingly or unknowingly, believers and non-believers alike are calling upon God to witness.

“In vain” means purposely, irreverently, or worthlessly. Its root word means to ravage or waste, and is often translated with the word “empty.” The repute and Name of God is to never be used pointlessly and fruitlessly but treated with the honor and the respect you would tender if you were in the very presence of the Just One (for indeed, you are!). The words written with the hand of God on tablets of stone forcefully state God will not hold the one who violates this law free and innocent (guiltless).

The way we type, the way we speak, and the way we act unerringly reflect how we think of our Maker. Your reverence or irreverence cannot be hidden for long. See that you elevate His Name as David says in Psalm 8:1, “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your Name in all the earth! Who have set Your glory above the heavens.” Trust and obey.