By Steven Greene

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"For then I [God] will give a pure language to the people, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one accord" (Zephaniah 3:9).

The 3rd Commandment
Today, language is rife with phrases that include the outright or implied use of the names of God and Jesus Christ. It has become so common that is no longer offensive. I can still remember growing up when it was forbidden to use the name of our heavenly Father or our Savior unless it was spoken reverently and respectfully. Any other context is violating the third commandment: "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 using God's name in an evil, useless, or worthless manner. Any expression that does not call upon God or refer to God with reverence is violating this commandment.

Ezekiel prophesied of a time when profanity would become so prevalent that God will have to teach the world to again regard His name as holy. "And I will sanctify My great name, which was profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst" (Ezekiel 36:23).

Some consider it less offensive to people (and to God) to use euphemisms (Greek for good + speaking) of God's name such as gosh, golly, gee (+ whiz, willikers, etc.), jeepers, jeez, and sheesh. The first two are "soft" expressions for God, whereas the last four are substitutions for Jesus. Then there is the old "Jiminy cricket," which was a perversion of the Latin "Jesu Domini" (Lord Jesus); and the phrase "Good Lord!"—which is always used as an exclamation or interjection rather than actually calling upon God. Less obvious are "My goodness!" "Goodness knows!" "Man!" or "Boy!"—which are just substitutions or obvious "avoidance words" (words that are clearly substitutions to avoid saying the intended word)for God. There are also phrases such as "Oh my!" and "Oh dear!" that stop short of using God—but the inference is still there.

Regardless, all of them are blaspheming God, who considers His name holy! A true Christian will never use the name of God uselessly or in a curse. In Matthew 6:9 we are told, "Therefore, you are to pray after this manner: 'Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.' " To hallow God's name means to use it in a holy manner with reverence and respect. To do otherwise is sin, and God will hold us accountable for it.

Obscene and Pagan Words/Phrases
Today, conversations and written materials are full of offensive language. It is impossible to go through a single day anymore without hearing it. Much of it used to be called curse (cuss) words, dirty words, bad words, foul language, obscenity, obscene language, expletives, or four-letter words. A curse is asking God to inflict harm or punishment on someone, and there are many words and phrases—spoken to express anger or annoyance—that are used to avoid violating the third commandment.

How did our language come to contain such offensive words? Most of them originated from Latin or Germanic words that refer to sexual organs and acts or the excreta of our bodies. Other words are just plain demeaning of a person's heredity. At one time, such foul language was not widely used. And those who used profanity were said to have the "mouth of a sailor"—or that their words could "make a sailor blush." Today, however, few give thought to such language, which has now become a frequent part of conversation, even in "white collar" workplaces.

There are other, more subtle, words that come up in our language. For example, the word wish is used everywhere (especially on commercial greeting and gift cards). While it genuinely means desire, it is often a reference to pagan worship. For example, a genie (witch) grants wishes, people have wishing trees, there is a song about "wishing upon a star," and people give "birthday wishes" (tied to the pagan practice of blowing out candles, whereupon the wish would ascend to a god). These examples use wish to mean "calling on pagan deities." A preferred Christian substitute would be the word desire.

Another common phrase Christians should avoid is "mother nature," often used when referring to the weather. The term actually refers to Gaia, the Greek goddess of the Earth. Magic should also be shunned because it refers to humans engaging demonic powers. Then there are the four-letter euphemisms for words such as darn, dang, shucks, shoot (substituted for the four-letter word for excrement), and heck (hell). Even rats, used extensively by Charlie Brown in the Peanuts comic strip, has the same etymology as drat, which comes from "od rat," meaning "God rot," a curse on someone.

Then there are the useless phrases such as "Good heavens!", "For heaven's sake!", "Good grief!", "Good gracious!", "Gracious me!", "Holy cow!", "Holy moly!", "Holy mackerel!", and "Dear me!", which are merely exclamations that have no meaning except to announce an emotional response to a situation. Then there's the old word gadzooks—slang for "God's hooks" and a reference to the nails by which Jesus was fastened to the cross.

Judged for Every Idle Word
God does not consider such language acceptable. True Christians must understand that our words matter. Using curses, obscene, or profane words are unnecessary and useless. They serve no purpose except to shock others. God will judge those who do not repent of using inappropriate language. In Matthew 12:36 Jesus says, "But I say to you, for every idle word that men may speak, they shall be held accountable in the day of judgment." An idle word is anything that is useless or worthless—including all obscenities, profanities, and useless exclamations. This certainly includes the vain or idle use of God's name. Paul said, "Do not let any corrupt communication come out of your mouth, but that which is good and needful for edification that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29). This means every idle exclamation, interjection, and vain use of God's name must be avoided. If it doesn't convey something meaningful, helpful, or reverent toward God, simply do not say it.

The 2nd Commandment
There are other expressions that are much more subtle—but just as unacceptable to God. They are in fact violations of the second commandment: "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:5). They appear as phrases such a "By Jove", "We were fortunate", "I was lucky", or "It was fate." The first, "by Jove", is archaic today, but it was saying that the Roman god Jupiter (Jove) intervened in something.
Fortunate is a widely used word, even by those in the church. It is used without thinking, but is inappropriate because it is actually calling upon the Roman goddess Fortuna, who determines the fortunes of men. Those who acquire wealth received "good luck" from her, while others received "bad luck." A similar word people use to describe life-events is fate, a reference to the Greek "Fates" goddesses who supposedly determine the destinies and lifespans of men. Interestingly, Fortuna and Fate are used in the Bible. Notice Isaiah 65:11: "But you who forsake the LORD, who forget My holy mountain, who prepare a table for Fortune, and who furnish the drink offering to Fate." All Roman and Greek gods and goddesses are named after ancient pagan deities that were once worshipped in the Babylonian religion. Can a Christian sincerely worship the one true God if their words are filled with requests to and the glorification of pagan gods?

If you believe God is involved in your life, why say such things as "I was fortunate." Instead, give God the glory. When good things happen, give God the glory and say, "That was a blessing." Or "Thanks be to God!" When bad things happen, using profanity or obscene language only increases anger and frustration. Turning to God not only minimizes anger but also allows you to look to Him for help. At those times, saying "That was my own fault" or "That was disappointing" or, best of all, "God help me!" puts things into perspective. Everyone can find pure and clean alternatives to today's foul language. Just ask yourself if your words are appropriate to be spoken in front of God. If not, purge them from your mind and vocabulary.

A Pure Language
The languages of this world are so corrupt that even those in the body of Christ are afflicted with the use of curses, profanities, and obscenities. But through sincere repentance and God's healing, this can be overcome by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. During the millennial rule of Christ, God will give the world a pure language (Zephaniah 3:9). It will certainly be one without profane and useless words—but it will be more than that. The word pure means clean; therefore, this new language will be without references to the perverse or evil. It will be a holy language wherein people can call upon God's holy name with true reverence and respect.

God's Name Written on Us
It is so important for true Christians to cleanse their language and thoughts so that they can worship God in holiness and righteousness. God sanctifies (makes holy) His name, not just because He is the one true God, but because He is going to write His name upon all the righteous firstfruits of His children. Having God's name written upon us will only happen if we have reverence and respect for Him. Notice Revelation 3:12: "The one who overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall not go out any more; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which will come down out of heaven from My God; and I will write upon him My new name." We are just the beginning. As it says, "For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" (Ephesians 3:14-15).