“And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:12).
ONE EVIDENCE OF HOW LITTLE REGARD WE HAVE FOR GOD IS THE FLIPPANT WAY IN WHICH WE SOMETIMES USE HIS NAME. It is possible, no doubt, to be scrupulous in the use of God’s name and still not have any reverence for Him in our hearts. But in today’s meditation, we want to focus on the inside-out problem: the problem of the person who has no inward respect for God and that lack of respect shows up in the person’s outward speech. There are basically three ways we may disrespect God and His name.
Swearing. To swear is to invoke God as the guarantee that we’re going to do as we say. For instance, the person who says, “This is what I’m going to do, by God” is swearing. But Jesus taught that our statements ought not to require any oath to back them up. “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).
Profanity. Profane speech is that which makes common or crude use of words that should be held as sacred and used only with great reverence. It’s not uncommon anymore to hear the words God and Jesus Christ thrown around so casually one wonders if the speakers even realize whose names they are using.
Cursing. When a person curses, he calls down God’s wrath upon someone, verbally wishing them harm. “Damn you” is shorthand for “I hope God will damn your soul to hell.” Even thinking this about someone is serious, but speaking it out loud — using God’s name to vent our anger on others — is a monstrous evil. It is no light matter to wish the loss of someone’s soul.
Why are these things so serious? Might we not consider them harmless foibles, less dangerous than sins that actually hurt other people? Well, the problem has to do with the heart. Crude words, and certainly irreverent ones, are almost always symptomatic of a heart that is turned away from God. So Jesus said, “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). So the next time you feel like “cussing,” check your heart. Where is your spiritual father, above or below? Does your speech show that you’re a humble worshiper of God?
“To curse is to pray to the devil” (German Proverb).