Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!
Is Saying, "Oh My God" A Sin?
-by Tony Warren
t is truly appalling the unconscionable nature of many professing Christian's speech today. When they should be making an assiduous effort at living as close to Godliness as possible, they instead seem to be content to live as close to the world as possible. Showing no care to exercise caution in bridling the tongue, they routinely type "OMG" or blurt out things like, "Oh My God," which should never come effortlessly from the mouth of a Christian. I know many professed Christians think words are actually harmless, but God has a different view.
Why is it that Christians today seem to have no common understanding that it is words that defile, that pollute, that corrupt unto sin. Because careless words are the product of a dulled conscience and are merely symptoms of what may be a deeper spiritual problem within. Taking the Lord's name in vain is no minor infraction. And yet Christian conscience against making such vain exclamations seems to be an afterthought at best, rather than held as a rule guiding our lives. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain is the third of the ten commandments, but unfortunately there are a great many professing Christians who I do not believe have any idea what the meaning of that command is. I am often asked if saying "Oh My God" is really the sin of using the name of our God in vain, especially when it's only to emphasize our emotions? The clear answer I get from my Bible is, Yes! Where does scripture say we can use God's name in vain if it is to emphasize things or to show emotions? Calling God should be a serious matter for Christians. It was bad enough when we only had to listen to unbelievers use God's name this way, saying "Oh My God," or "Jesus Christ!" But now we have to routinely listen to unbelievers and professed Christians alike, as if it were just a meaningless colloquialism. This growing epidemic of Christians flippantly saying, "Oh My God" in response to nearly anything remotely surprising must be rebuked by conscientious Christians. Even though we can barely watch TV, go to work or talk to anyone without hearing someone exclaiming, "Oh My God," it should never be allowed to creep into the Church. The problem is, we hear Godís name used vainly so often that we have become desensitized to it. I cringe or wince whenever I hear professing Christians thoughtlessly evoking this phrase. And often it is not even an exclamation, it has now become the cultural equivalent to saying, "Oh Really?" Thoughtless Christians are now using it routinely because (like the proverbial lemmings), they cannot seem to break themselves from the worldly trait of mimicking or following the crowd. The same as they have digressed to believing in Christian gambling, divorce and remarriage. The same worldliness that has led them to Christian rock and roll, Christian Tattooing, Christian homosexuals and almost everything else the world sets the trend to do. This is the carnal or fleshly slide of neglect and unfaithfulness within our Churches. When society normalizes a saying like this, these professed Christians, who are actually living as much like the world as they can, without conscience follow in tacit support. And anyone who dares to reprove or rebuke this habit is accused of misstating the sin, being legalistic, or deemed judgmental in taking things too seriously. But the fact is, saying "Oh My God" this way, names or references God in vain. In other words, it is evoking God without a serious reason, in essense reducing His value and dishonoring His title. In fact this devaluing is inherently part of the very definition of the word vain. It is using the name without real purpose.
- "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."
Vain [veyn] adjective, -er, -est.
empty; something that is useless; void of value; ineffectiveness; from anglo-french, empty, futile; to no avail; to be unsuccessful; without real significance, use to no worth, or importance; baseless or meaningless; 2. to be excessively proud or conceited; excessive pride in one's appearance; 3. Archaic. senseless or foolish.
The word vain essentially means empty, or void of any real value. To take God's name in vain is to evoke it in a hollow or meaningless way, without real significance or purpose to Him. In short, it is essentially to treat the word "God" in a valueless way. So it really doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that "Oh My God," used in this frivolous way, isn't really a call for God the father, it is simply used by habit or as an purposeless call upon God. Certainly it isn't an act of Christians agreeing with, evoking, praising or petitioning God. The truth is, this phrase is almost always little more than a bad cultural or social habit. It is unquestionably taking the name of the Lord in vain, which is a clear violation of His third commandment.
Taking the Lord's name in vain refers to its use in an empty or meaningless way, exactly as it is used today with phrases like, "God," "Jesus Christ," "Oh My God," "God Damn-it," or even quips like, "He has more money than God." While some Christians seem to think it's no big deal, God's word (Exodus 20:7) declares that it is not a guiltless act, but a very serious one. It seems that man has become so morally degraded, that saying "Oh My God" is now thought of as a mere figure of speech which no one should take account of or be offended by. But God does not share that "vain" valueless philosophy. There are even those Christians who attempt to justify it by declaring that the actual word "God" is really insignificant to Christianity because there are many of gods. One Christian told me it was fine for us to say "Oh My God" because God wasn't the name of the Lord, God was simply a title. But the question is, whoís title? The third commandment forbids all profaning or vain use of any name/title/moniker whereby God makes Himself known. And the title God is an identifying word by which the Lord Jehovah is called. Moreover, does "Oh My God" reference someone else's god? And even if it did, wouldn't that also be a sin against God to call on another god? So their excuses ring as hollow as their calls upon God.
- "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain."
1st Corinthians 8:5-6
Therefore, a professed Christian evoking "Oh My God" is referring to the only God that can be His God. And no form of rationalization will change that. Likewise, for the professing Christian to evoke some other god is just as serious a sin. So there is no hiding from the truth under the bed of rationalizations. The whole point of Christian conscientiousness is that there is "only one God," and His name one, and He is sacred and holy. All justifications notwithstanding, the name (or title) God, should never be taken in vain, and only called upon when honorably when earnestly seeking, praising or worshipping Him. We must cast aside our pride in the will of man, and surrender to the will of God concerning these things. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
- "For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)
- But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him."
A title in fact is a distinguishing name, a designation of office or ownership. Thus why would the name "God" be deemed unworthy of honor by Christians evoking it shamelessly and without real purpose? It makes no sense!
- "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
"Why does God ascribe using His name in vain (valuelessly) such a serious sin as to make it one of the ten commandments?"
It is because it is a grievous sin, an offense to the seriousness and holiness of God. It is akin to mocking God by calling Him without actually having a purpose. That we would routinely call upon God in vain is a sure sign of an unconscionable lack of reverence and respect for our creator. The essence of saying "God" vainly, is really relegating Him to be a thoughtless phrase without significance. It then becomes nothing more than a baseless, futile, vain declaration. And our Lord has decreed in the decalogue that He will not hold him guiltless (innocent) who takes His name in vain. So we need to start being more conscious of this act and take it more seriously than the world does. After all, we are set apart, sanctified unto conscientiousness in the service of God. Thus we should not let the corrupt speech of the world, bring degradation to the Church of God.
Corrupt or unwholesome speech is not only filthy discourse, but also debasing God and degrading His name as void by using it without it being a real call for His attention. That is a corruption of the highest order that is so singularly dibolical, that it appears to many to be innocent. It is a pollution that is infecting us without recognition to many common and ordinary hearers. And as faithful Christians, we need to educate our children and our young people that this is a grave sin against God. And we also need to take a good look at ourselves and decide whether we want to have the mind of Christ and conform to the likeness of God, or the mind of the world to follow their likeness and traditions. Because the trivializing calling on the Lord in vain is like a creeping choking vine that will squeeze the life out of our conscience if given half the chance. Believe it or not, there once was a time not long ago when nearly all Christians knew this was a sin, and there was almost unanimous agreement in the Churches. But as apostasy has crept slowly in, we are met with the ever diverse forms of justification, where people turn a deaf ear to the truth. For example, one professing Christian theorized that it is only the meaning that we intend to give the phrase that really matters, and not that actual words that we say. Still another took a more confessional view:
- "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."
"Yes, I admit that I say 'Oh my god' all the time, because it has no real significance to me. And it shouldn't be an offense to God or anyone else because it is only words. And even if it is an offense, I am forgiven."
This "automatic forgiveness" line reminds me what the Apostle Paul said, "Shall we sin that Grace may abound?" No, as it is written, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Maybe some Christians don't understand what tempting God means either. But in this man's response, we get to the real crux of the matter--that he said it has no real significance to him. How can saying "Oh My God" have no real significance to a Christian? And isn't that the very definition of vainly calling upon God?
Of course, he misses the whole point that we are making, but this is typical of Christian justification and rationalization. Because as you, I, and most other reasonable and logically thinking Christian know, they are not "just words". It is the lack of God fearing conscientiousness and sensitivity to the holiness of the Lord that is permeating the Church today. There is no fear of God, no contrite spirit, no humility, reverence or respect. It is almost as if some think that being a Christian today entails nothing more than "profession" that you are a Christian. But it is written, "faith without works is dead." So Profession without evidence is like the sun without light. One must then ask, is it really the sun if there is no light?
Where is our attention to the Spirit? Do not the devils also believe and the false prophets also confess? We are separated from them by the Spirit of God within us, moving us to Spiritual conscientiousness and holiness. Evoking "God" should only be done with a clear conscience, in the context of calling upon, speaking about, addressing, praising or worshipping that God. And despite all the justifications of man, an exclamatory "Jesus," or "Oh My God," does none of these things. It is either used as an explicative to illustrate surprise, shock or emotion, or it a mindless colloquialism that usually comes forth from the mouth as automatically as exhaling carbon dioxide. And this should not be. Jesus and God should be names that are used for identification, worship and sincere calling, never as exclamatory speech.
- "Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
- Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
- But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"
The Bible clearly states that we should guard our hearts and bridle our tongues, and we do this by being conscientious of all unrighteousness, having our minds on Christ Jesus rather than worldly and unchristian behavior, fads and colloquialisms. As Christians, we are to ordained and "set apart" different from the world, not just like it. Our minds are ruled by a higher power than social trend or 'mores.
- "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."
There is no virtue in using the Lord's name in vain saying, "Oh my God." Because it is used in a mindless manner, and makes a mockery of Calling upon God. When we do these things, we are not keeping God's words, as illustrated in Philippians 4:8. We are not keeping whatsoever things are true and whatsoever things are honest. These become mere sidebars as we think on whatsoever is easy and whatsoever is agreeable with our own will. And for Christians to attempt to justify it by declaring it part of our common language we need to just get use to, is a condemnation of their own hearts. Rather, pray God for the grace that we look into our own hearts, that we might depart from the perverse tongue of vain modernism, and that we keep our hearts and minds in the true holiness of Christ Jesus.
- "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
God wants us to guard our hearts and bridle our tongues, and that means being careful not to use the Lord's name in vain. That means understanding God will not hold him blameless who does.
- "My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
- Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.
- For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
- Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
Actually, there are some people who honestly aren't even fully aware that saying "Oh My God" is a sin. This is partly because nobody ever bothers to lovingly rebuke this common practice or to define taking the Lordís name in vain to them. Not their parents, not their Pastor, not their teacher. So sometimes people are not even aware that they are doing anything wrong by saying this. But as conscientious Christians, it is our duty to instruct on, rather than neglect this important precept. We need to evangelize, preach the word and stop living this life as the Christian mute.
2nd Timothy 4:2-3
Christians should teach that saying "Oh My God" is a transgression of the ten commandments, because "in vain" means to call on God for no effectual reason. And when so many professed Christians are failing to teach of this error, then the fault must also be placed firmly at the feet of the Church that has obviously forsaken its responsibility. I have read very little in Christian articles or literature from theologians about this growing epidemic. It is up to those of us who still care about living Godly and that we do things biblically, decently, and in order, to respond to this creeping weed appropriately. There is nothing worse than Christians who understand the error, just sitting silently in tacit support of offensive behavior. We expect that from the world, but not from the Church of the living God. As good stewards, we need to understand that part of our being resurrected a new creation is the spiritual realization of how Holy God is. And that any time that we address our God, it should be with reverence and honor. As living stones, we should be acutely aware of the slightest blasphemy, disrespect or dishonor. We should know of the Spirit that casually saying "Oh My God" is not an appropriate phrase for us to use as an individual form of expression.
- "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
- For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;"
What name should we glorify? God, Savior, Lord, Jehovah, Jesus, Yeshua, etc. We glorify God in every title He takes upon Himself. Is saying "Oh My God a sin?" Unequivocally. Glorifying the name of God with all our heart entails more than talking the life, it entails living the life. For not only is there one God, but He is God of all men, and not just believers. He makes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust. And that the name or title of "God" refers to the divine is not an obscure thought, for nearly all mankind knows what the word God means. Yes, even unbelievers. And I've even seen unbelievers raise a few eyebrows at Christians who say "Oh My God." While to many Christians, I am making much ado about nothing. That's how twisted things have become. For a Christian to think that our Lord smiles upon this careless speech is absurd. So except we use the Lord's name or title purposefully, respectfully and reverently, we should keep God out of our mouths. For to use the name God in any other way than to praise, honor or address Him is sin. And any Christian who doesn't understand that has a serious lack of Godly sensitivity that in itself is disturbing and needs correcting.
- "I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore."
May the Lord, who is gracious above all, help us to take His name seriously, to treat it respectfully, and to keep it holy.
Copyright ©2009 Tony Warren
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