Not just about words, but about integrity

Posted Sep 3, 2019

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Daily Scripture

This week we are memorizing:

Do not use Yahweh your God’s name as if it were of no significance.

Leviticus 19:12

12 You must not swear falsely by my name, desecrating your God’s name in doing so; I am Yahweh.

Deuteronomy 23:21-23

21 When you make a promise to Yahweh your God, don’t put off making good on it, because Yahweh your God will certainly be expecting it from you; delaying would make you guilty. 22 Now if you simply don’t make any promises, you won’t be guilty of anything. 23 But whatever you say, you should be sure to make good on, exactly according to the promise you freely made to Yahweh your God because you promised it with your own mouth.

Reflection Questions

Many of us, especially if raised religiously, have heard a narrow grasp of the third commandment’s meaning. Some well-meaning parents or Sunday School teachers have seemed to apply the commandment only to avoiding a few “bad” words, especially when we’re angry or frustrated. Yes, habitual profanity is usually a limited way to express ourselves. But today’s readings show that the commandment spoke to a far more serious point—using God’s name to confirm a promise we do not keep.

  • Leviticus 19:12 was part of a set of guidelines which grew out of Leviticus 19:1-2: “Yahweh said to Moses, Say to the whole community of the Israelites: You must be holy, because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.” How did that prepare the Israelites (and us) to think about the specific commands as a part of a life built on God’s holiness, not just random demands?
  • Jesus echoed Deuteronomy 23:22 when he said, “I say to you that you must not pledge at all…. Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:34, 37—more about this on Thursday). Have you ever, intentionally or by mistake, over-promised and under-delivered? In what ways can you practice greater honesty in your dealings with others and with yourself?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount was not the first time you tried to teach your people the importance of honest promises. Guide me, as one of your people, to live out the full reach of the third commandment. Amen.

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Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann

Denise serves as the Early Childhood Coordinating Assistant at Church of the Resurrection.

Calling someone by name is one way we can make people feel important and loved. An expression of affection or appreciation is even sweeter when it includes our name--somehow it seems to carry just a little more impact.

When someone uses our name in anger or hatred it makes us feel disrespected. Even after an apology there is still a residual effect from those words that cannot be completely erased. 

That same effect exists in how we choose to use the names for God. Either in a positive or negative way, how we use God’s name has a huge impact both on those around us and our relationship with God.

The third commandment tells us to “not take the name of the Lord in vain" (or, as we are memorizing it, "Do not use Yahweh your God’s name as if it were of no significance.") 

As a person who grew up believing the third commandment was intended  to direct our language and in what ways we use God’s name, specifically to not use God’s name in any way as part of a swear, it is important to realize that the commandment goes far beyond that interpretation.

We are not only called to avoid using God’s name in vain, but also to uphold all promises and commitments we make in make in God’s name. 

Our words tend to bring out what’s in our heart. When we speak untruth or don’t honor what we say we will do, those words dishonor God and create an empty space in our relationship with Him. And while the third commandment does tell us, in no uncertain terms, to not use God’s name in vain, it doesn’t end there. 

Each and every time we speak, we have a chance to use our words not only to build up those around us, but to honor God. It seems like such a simple commandment, but I for one fail more often than I care to admit. So how do I make a positive change and more truly honor God’s third commandment? As I prepare to speak, take three seconds to ask myself “do these words honor my relationship with God,” “does this help or detract from building up others with my words” and “does what I am about to say promise something that I don’t intend to fulfill”? It may sound simple, but there is little doubt most of us could consider those three things a little more often than we do.

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