Honoring the Lord’s Name

I have a hard time speaking up when I hear people taking the Lord’s name in vain, especially when it’s my friends and family using slang phrases like “Oh my goodness” or “Oh my word.” Do you have any simple responses to help me stand up for God’s name, while doing this in love and trying not to be offensive? 


Onderwijzer sympathizes with you and feels the same struggle. The second commandment warns, “The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7). If God will not hold him guiltless, he will surely punish the blasphemer. Perhaps your friends and family do not realize that slang phrases are really substitutes for God’s name. They might use phrases such as “My goodness” out of ignorance. You should politely explain it to them.  

The Pharisees misused God’s name, although not out of ignorance. They avoided using God’s name altogether. They swore by the temple or the altar. They swore by heaven or by earth. Yet Jesus condemned them (see Matt. 5:33–37; 23:16–22). When we swear by “our mother’s eyes” or “our mother’s grave,” as some do, we dishonor God. Our mother is not God. The Catechism instructs us here: “His wrath is kindled against those who do not endeavor, as much as in them lies, to prevent and forbid such cursing and swearing.”1 And also: “May we also swear by…any other creatures? No.…[Such] honor is due to no creature.”2 

Remember also your position as a young person. You have little to no authority over others.  It is the responsibility of authority figures to see to it that God’s name is not dishonored. How difficult it is when your boss at work and even the president himself routinely take God’s name in vain! If your family does it or your friends do it, you have every right to say, “What you said is offensive to God and to me.”  You do it meekly, respectfully, and submissively. One very effective way when the name of God or of Jesus is used wrongly is simply to exclaim, “His name be praised!” That might open up an opportunity to speak of our glorious God and Savior simply because this approach would be received more favorably than a rebuke.