Misusing God’s Name

Misusing God’s Name

Bill trashed the name of God with casual regularity. “GD” to him was normal language. His parents swore; his aunts and uncles swore; his school buddies swore. It wasn’t that anybody set out to abuse the name of God; it was just their cultural language. It came with the territory.

In all honesty, Bill was ignorant about God’s command. He meant nothing by it—and no one had ever said a word to him about his profanity. Bill was uninformed about the seriousness of using God’s name.

Then Bill met a genuine, authentic, honest believer whose life was consistent, a new friend deeply devoted to God. Bill liked hanging around with this guy and soon began to experience God’s accepting love through him. He was under conviction because the very God he cursed actually cared about him. But Bill’s resistance ran deep, and he responded to God’s gentle prodding by pushing back. He intentionally started offending his new Christian friend, notching up the profanity, looking for every opportunity to embarrass him.

But something began to happen to Bill. Each time he cursed the name of God, he became aware of the presence of the God he cursed. He realized that he was actually addressing God, provoking a response of presence. And Bill was softened by the exchange.

As he recognized the emptiness of his life compared to that of his friend, he began to crumble. One day, he sat in his car leaning over the steering wheel, contemplating his life. And he prayed: God, it’s me—the tough guy with the foul mouth. I’ve trashed Your name a million times. I’ve dared You to do something about it. But You have done nothing to d—n me back. You just keep making me aware of You. Apparently, I matter to You. I want to know You as more than a curse word. Forgive me.

And God did. And Bill believed.

As a new Christian, Bill started working on his language, but the tongue is a tough tiger to tame. Profanity had become a natural part of his response mechanism, and it would take awhile to dislodge the speech patterns. Habits die hard.

One day when Bill was in his small-group meeting, the guys were reading James 3:7: “Every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Bill agreed with James. But he was up to the challenge of taming the tongue. He committed to an accountability process with his group. They would ask him each week if he had spoken profanity of any kind, and he would give an honest answer.

Bill stayed at it, and the Spirit of God saturated his heart and slowly replaced cursing with blessing. Bill’s use of God’s name became purposeful, intentional, and uplifting as he shared with family and friends how God had blessed his life. And now, the mere mention of God’s name made Bill aware of God’s power and presence. He could hardly believe the person he used to be.

As Bill bought into Christianity, he started tasting all its flavors. It wasn’t long until he met the television evangelists. Their “name it and claim it” simplicity caught his attention. In Jesus’ name people were healed, riches promised, and miracles offered.

Preachers, teachers, and visiting celebrities spoke so naturally of having talked with God that very day and having been told by God that 167 people were going to send $500 to the broadcast. One man was told by God that the Second Coming would happen in January. It seemed that if God’s name was attached to it, nothing was questioned.

And Bill was hooked. He wanted in on this kind of power. It was like having a magic lantern, a genie in a bottle, God in a box.

Bill learned the art quickly. To his dad: “God told me to buy this car and to ask you for the down payment.” To an eligible young woman: “God told me to ask you out.” To his preacher: “God told me that your sermons are not tough enough on sin.” It was like having blank checks, signed by God. So Bill cashed them.

Bill used God’s name with casual regularity to endorse his own will. He labeled his thoughts, leanings and leadings with the divine logo. And God was grieved. Bill was using the franchise name without authorization. So, God decided to deal with Bill.

Each time Bill misused God’s name, God grew His ears by one-fourth of an inch. It was a Pinocchio effect, except this time it was the ears instead of the nose. Every time Bill signed a blank check with God’s name on it, his ears grew. The first one-fourth, half, and three-fourths of an inch didn’t get his attention. But when a child eventually pointed at him and said, “Look, Mom, Dumbo the Elephant!” Bill finally noticed.

Soon, he figured out the cause-and-effect mechanics. It happened when he was chastising his mother for not submitting to the head of the house as the Bible says, noting that God had told him that she should worship her husband. That one added a whole inch and a half!

Every time Bill spoke for God when God hadn’t spoken, used God’s name to enforce his will, or forged his opinion with God’s signature, his ears grew. Bill had perfected the art of using God, and, in the process, God’s presence had disappeared.

It is easier to place God at our disposal than to place ourselves at God’s disposal. It is easier to call for the genie than to serve the Master.

Bill’s crumbling humility and repentance reminded him of the day he bowed over the steering wheel and asked God to forgive him for his foul mouth. That night he wrote these words in his journal: The worst blasphemy is not profanity, but lip service—to speak God’s name, without God’s backing, to talk as if God does not hear and is not present to defend His name.

The prayer says it well: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”

Today’s post is an excerpt from Dancing with the Law: The Ten Commandments.

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