COMMUNICATION 03 - Misusing God's name

Deuteronomy 5:11

“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.”

  • What is the meaning of ‘the name of God’? How is it used in the Bible?
  • The name of God is a description of God. It is the character or identity of God.
  • False representation of who God is, his character or identity is a serious offence.
What is ‘wrongful use' or 'misuse' of the name of God? 'অনর্থক না নেওয়া ' বা 'বাজে উদ্দেশ্যে?
  • Telling lies about God. Misrepresenting God to others.
  • Putting God’s name on something that isn’t like him or doesn’t glorify him.
  • Putting God’s name on something that he didn’t command.
  • Using God’s name in bad language or swearing.
  • To use God’s name but not mean it; language automatisms or babbling.
  • Lying ‘for God’, beautifying events, correcting problems, ‘protecting’ God’s name
  • Blasphemy against God or cursing of God.
Swearing – Bad language
  • Bad language (sometimes containing the name of God or substitutes or derivatives of the name of God) is usually to express anger, dissent, frustration, disdain, superiority or hate, occasionally surprise or fear.
  • Often bad language is used with the intention to disrespect, to hurt, to degrade, to take revenge, to put down, to threaten, to get my way.
  • Though anger can be an appropriate emotion (for example in the face of injustice) and can help a person to protect themselves or others and to oppose evil, it more often is used to control and dominate inappropriately.
  • Swearing adds emotion and power to my language, but usually uncontrolled or inappropriate emotion and power.
  • Bad language in general (whether or not containing God’s name as such) is a misrepresentation of God, who always treats humans with dignity, gives value, expresses hope, accepts repentance and desires their salvation (1 Tim 2:4).
  • Bad language usually also is ‘out of control’ language, saying things that I might later regret. In this aspect also it is misrepresenting God who is never uncontrolled in what he says. God doesn’t speak words he later regrets.
Giving labels or making prophecies
  • Sometimes language is used to speak negative conclusions, expectations or prophecies. “He’ll never learn … they will always be like that … she is xxx and will always be xxx”
  • Careful with giving labels, especially negative ones, they may stick and work damage over years in somebody’s thinking. Even more positive labels can brand, assign or limit a person needlessly “Hi, professor”… “reliable Martha”.
  • Careful with such ‘prophecies’, for once something is spoken, there tends to be a self-fulfilling mechanism. The victim might be driven by the words spoken. Or the victim might vow to do the opposite, but still is driven by proving that. Or the victim might feel no freedom to do otherwise.
  • Only God knows the future. God views prophesying seriously. False prophecy was punished by the death penalty in the Old Testament, precisely because of its potentially destructive power (Deu 13:5).


  • Cursing means to wish people evil or misfortune, often God’s name is used.
  • Cursing can be a ‘last resort’ of a person treated very unjustly to defend himself or to take the only revenge that seems possible.
  • In this sense cursing can be a calling on God, a threatening of somebody by invoking God to punish since the person himself has no power to do so.
  • Similar to that is Deu 24:15 “You shall pay hem their wages daily before sunset … otherwise they might cry to the LORD against you, and you would incur guilt.”
Babbling - Words without meaning
  • Sometimes the name of God is used casually, without being aware what one is saying, automatisms or mere words without thinking of the meaning.
  • This is common among believers, especially very verbal traditions. It can express approval, agreement, surprise, being startled, being shocked etc.
  • Phrases like “Praise the Lord! .. Praise God! … Lord willing … Jesus! … Lord! … Goodness gracious! … God forbid! … Amen! … preach it! and many more are often spoken without real awareness.
  • Some preaching styles ask for continual affirmation, often before real thinking or commitment making has taken place in the listener.
  • “Repeat after me” prayers often express serious commitments, that are supposed to be made in the split second between hearing and repeating.
  • Out loud parallel prayer can also be highly repetitive and with only partial awareness of what I am really saying or asking for and what that might mean.
  • Though much of this is done ‘with good attitude’ and ‘with the right intention’ it does have the total effect of devaluing the importance of the spoken word, and is not totally harmless.
  • Things become ‘church culture’, ‘the way we do it’, ’emotional ride’ with no necessary call for true, conscious, daily, private application or implementation. It unintentionally encourages a split between saying and doing. It opens things up to the charge of hypocrisy. It favors a verbal extroverted expression over serious inner devotion or careful practical application.
  • Jesus does address some aspects of this in Mth 6:7-8:   “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
  • Jesus also addresses ‘careless speaking’ in Mth 12:36   “I tell you, on the day of judgement you will have to give and account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
  • God’s word is never casual, never without meaning, never without importance, never without commitment.
  • God’s word and his actions never differ, God is always true and consistent.
  • Our words must be like God’s: with weight, meaning, importance, commitment.
    • Do not say what you do not mean!
    • Do not verbally agree if your heart and mind is not ready!
    • If you have nothing to say, say nothing. If you are not sure, don’t commit.
    • Try to unlearn automatisms and ‘mere words’ as far as you can!
    • Work hard to be reliable and trustworthy, to not let your words and reality differ!
Putting God's name on something
  • Am I using God’s name …
    • > to justify something?                           … ‘but it does work …’
    • > to legitimize something?                     … ‘it’s for a good purpose…’
    • > to empower to something?                 … ‘o, God said …’
    • > to get something? To get authority, reputation, trust, privilege?
  • Careful with ‘authorizing’ my opinion by quoting God.
  • Careful with ‘legitimizing’ divisive theology by quoting the Bible (Jam 3:13-18) or authorizing my interpretation of a verse unduly.
  • Careful with feeling obliged to ‘coerce for God’. God has unbelievable respect for human will, so should we. He does not ‘push over’ human decisions, period.
  • Truth is only truth when it is spoken in the attitude of the Spirit of Truth.
  • It is possible to have the letter of the Law down and miss the heart of the Law (Mth 23 whole chapter) “Woe to you … for you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” (Mth 23:23)
  • It is possible to be the spiritual elite and miss the expected Messiah. If this was a temptation back then, it still is now. We are all good, solid Pharisees.
  • Careful with ‘Christian advertisement’ … ‘this music will lead you straight into the presence of God’.
Misrepresenting God
  • One way of misusing the name of God is to misrepresent God. Christians are God’s representatives to others. So what am I really presenting? What must others conclude from my life?
  • Any area my life that does not reflect God means that I am misrepresenting him:
  • Personally               > how do I spend my time? My money?
                                      > what do I do when no one looks? where are my thoughts? > how do I treat others?
  • Church or ministry > do I lead hierarchically?
                                      > do I behave differently at church?
                                      > do I look down on other believers or groups?
  • Work                         > how dilligent am I?
                                      > what are funds spent on?
                                      > how accurate is my reporting?
                                      > am I doing ‘politics’?
Beautifying facts 'for God'
  • Do not ‘lie for God’! Do not over-report God’s work!
  • Do not spice up stories nor ‘beautify’ events!
  • Do not deny negatives or disappointments!
  • God is never glorified by untruth. He never works by untruth. Believers are never ‘encouraged’ by a beefed-up, false reports, however well meant.
  • God is a God of truth and is only glorified by truth. God is a God of reality and can handle reality. And he will help humans to handle reality. Nothing but the truth will do.
Hiding negative facts 'for God'
  • The greater difficulty comes when evil is done by God’s people or even in God’s name and it is not known yet. Example: sexual abuse of a girl by a pastor.
  • By sharing or addressing it, I might bring great shame on the Christian community, the denomination, the church and also on God.
  • What is my role? Should I tell? Must I tell? Who do I tell? How do I tell?
  • When is there a moral obligation to report? Where does slander start?
  • Basically: never lie for God. God’s reputation is indeed tarnished by his people doing evil deeds. But God is concerned with sin, not with ‘who knows about sin’. The question is not: Does anyone know? The question is: Did it happen?
  • I am not in charge of God’s reputation, he is. The only way I am responsible for his reputation is by not misrepresent him myself though my behavior.
  • God cares about his name, but it is not his highest priority (Lam 3:1-21).
  • God cares about his name, but the sin of lying will never save his honor or name
  • But when must I speak? If people continue being hurt, endangered or human rights keep being abused, I have the obligation to do something.
  • Example: a person confessing a murder or rape to a pastor. He is legally bound to report the crime, whether or not this was spoken in trust as a confession.
  • Equally medical doctors and teachers are under some obligation to report.
  • Slander is to give wrong or misleading information about a person with the intent to injure their reputation, to hurt them, to shame them, to discredit their witness by defamation or derogation.
Towards real words – what can we learn?

> God calls good ‘good’, and evil ‘evil’              > give feelings their proper name
> speak to people remembering their value    > affirm what is good
> value what truly has value                               > be very honest
> don’t agree with lies about another                > do not accept lies about yourself
> let go of poisonous words spoken to you     > agree with God’s view
> beware of prejudice                                          > carefully practice ‘mind-hygiene’
> speak more carefully and consciously          > keep promises

Reality and vision
  • Sometimes the needful vision for future change and the present reality seem to clash.
  • We need to be real, respect facts, be honest, love reality and embrace truth
  • God only works in truth          > confess sin, repent, make restitution, move on
  • If we do not know what is      > we cannot change what is
  • Visionary thinking requires:   > knowing present reality       … what is
                                                       > having God’s hope & view   … what could be