The third Commandment is, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7.)
The word “vain” means “without validity” or “without proper meaning.” For example, if we say that a person “died in vain” we mean that the individual’s death “served no valid or meaningful purpose.”
”…ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.” Leviticus 26:16. KJV.
”…your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase….” Leviticus 26:20. KJV.
“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” Psalms 127:1. KJV.
”Bring no more vain…incense… (or) calling of assemblies,…it is iniquity….” Isaiah 1:13. (Parenthesis mine.)
Whenever we use a word that has no valid meaning that word is used in vain. John is jusbyaly. ”Jusbyaly” is a vain word because it has no valid meaning. The world “God” has no valid meaning within the context of the statement, “Oh, my God.”
The next time someone says or writes, “OMG” respond, ”Tell me about your God.” They will think you are crazy, because they were not referencing their God when they said, “My God.”
Using a word without proper clarification is also a vain use of a word. If I say, “I reached for that and I couldn’t get it” and there is no clarification for what the “that” or “it” is, then the sentence is meaningless because the noun is not clarified. The part of the sentence that makes the sentence meaningless are the vain words “that” and “it.” The word “God” in “OMG” has no meaning relative to God.
A wrong use of a word is using a word in vain. If I say “he is stupid” when I really mean he is “ignorant” then the word “stupid” is used in vain. A stupid person cannot learn. An ignorant person can learn but is unaware. If a person uses the word God with no intent to denote God, that is the wrong use of the word. When a person says “Oh My God” when they really mean “I’m shocked, surprised, disgusted and/or bewildered” that is a vain (wrong) use of the word God because that person is using the word “God” in a manner that is not a reference to God. God has no problem with using words in vain, except for his name.
In the hymn How Great Thou Art we see a proper use of the name of God. “Oh Lord my God when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made….”
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain [that is, irreverently, in false affirmations or in ways that impugn the character of God]; for the Lord will not hold guiltless nor leave unpunished the one who takes His name in vain [disregarding its reverence and its power]. Exodus 20:7. (Amplified Bible.)
“Using the name of God in a casual, frivolous way establishes a mindset that diminishes and dishonors the omnipotent God… ….invites judgment.” by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631.
OMG has become a statement of habit for many people. Break that habit before God’s judgment falls. God is patient. You have some time but not unlimited time! There are only 10 Commandments. We should work hard not to break any one of them, especially over and over by habit even if we think doing so is no big deal. The 10 Commandments are a big deal to God and he is the ultimate Judge.
Instead, why not say “Wow!”, “Man oh man!”, “I was stunned!” “Oh, my, oh my, oh my!”, or “That is really something!”
Here are the questions to ask. Does my language minister God’s graciousness to the hearers or does my choice of words make people wince? Is what I say when I am shocked, stunned, trying to make a point or disgusted something I would want my four-year old to say? Could I say it 10 times in a row out loud to God in prayer and feel no conviction? What do other people think about my choice of words? Do my words error on the side of holiness or sinfulness? Do I hear other godly people use the phrases I use? If not, there might be a reason.
“Then saith he (Jesus) to Thomas, ’Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said unto him, ‘My Lord and my God.”‘ John 20:27-28. Now, that is a correct use (variation) of OMG.
When we use the pronoun (or noun as some would argue) “God” we should be expressing something about our God or to our God, not expressing shock value or disgust. Think of it this way. What is the first name of the human being that you love most? The next time someone wants to express shock, distress, disbelief or disgust, ask them to say, “Oh my” followed by the name of the person you love. Does that statement sound honoring to your loved one? Not only does that statement not make sense, is shows disrespect towards your loved one. Now you know how God feels when he hears someone use his title when they are shocked, dismayed, mad or disgusted. Not only does the statement not make any sense, it shows disrespect towards our God. Don’t do it. “…the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
When OMG is used to express surprise or to emphasize a point, that is using the name of God in vain. When OMG is used to express dislike or disgust, that is using the name of God as a curse word.
Rev. Joda Collins
I make no claim that anyone else agrees with me.