Hear me, Lord, my plea is
listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—
it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right.
- Psalm 17:1-2
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
- Exodus 20:7
“‘I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One in Israel.
- Ezekiel 39:7
And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
- Matthew 5:36-37
I have never misused God’s name. I have used cusswords, taught to me by my platoon sergeant in the military. He pulled me aside and said that if I had nothing but farm boys and small town boys, I could keep my language clean, and they would all listen. But I had city boys, and they don’t start listening until they hear a few. He suggested some mild ones (his words) that did not refer to God or Jesus in any way. I will admit that the habit, once you start, is hard to break in times of elevated stress. If I die of a car wreck someday, one might be my last word. It was last used upon the day of this draft when I finished cooking supper (a rarity for me cooking, but it was burgers) and my plate went flying when I stumbled – everything that was left to eat. (The kitchen counter is clean, isn’t it? Oh, well, if it is too filthy, you may know why my blog stopped suddenly.)
That confession is now over. What really creams my corn these days is the continuous use of “Oh my god.” Of course, the younger generation thinks they can cuss without cussing by reducing it to OMG. My wife suggested this could stand for Oh, My Goodness – again playing games instead of looking at the root cause. I saw a video on my favorite weather station the other day. They showed a video of a lawn blister (a bubble of water between the ground and the grass – a lawn sized water bed). When the lawn blister was popped to drain the water, a by-standers said, “O. M. Googlie” or something like that, maybe Giggly. Somehow, we tend to cross over every new line that society draws in the sand as where polite separates from impolite – always on the edge, and testing the boundaries. That cross-over really bothered me.
Why does this bother me? I had never heard that expression “Oh, my god” until I started watching One Day at a Time (1975-1984). Ann Romano (played by Bonnie Franklin) said it continuously in every episode, or so it seemed. I had never heard anyone say that before then. I grew up in a small town in the backwoods of the Bible Belt. If I heard the words, the person was praying. Yes, our language was probably closer to 19th Century language than to the onset of 21st Century language, but I notice the calmness of the conversation these days when I am around polite company who do not cuss.
Does God really care about the Third Commandment? It seems so minor compared to killing and theft. Yes, He cares, as much as He cares about any of the others. The concept is that to have a positive, meaningful relationship with Jesus, we need to be on good speaking terms with Him. That means we need to read the Bible and pray, but it also means that we need to show Him respect. The use of initials to mask improper language is creating a cloud to mask and deceive a really lousy attitude toward Jesus. How does Jesus feel? As for me, I had a service provider at my home the other day. He knew my name, but I was called ‘dog’ every time he talked to me. And my wife was ragged and needed a nap, according to him. I was polite, knowing that is common speech these days, but I felt like calling his boss and asking if I could have a different service provider. Does this illustrate how Jesus might feel when you don’t talk to Him reverently in prayer, but you say His name when you step in chewing gum left on the sidewalk?
Ask yourself how many times you have said OMG or the full words that they represent in a day. Now ask yourself how many times have you reverently addressed God in prayer during the day. One thousand reverent references to one irreverent one is still too much cussing.
Some may think that Tim Hawkins’ routine on Christian Cusswords goes across a line, but I have tried to use some of these when someone cuts me off in traffic. It never developed a full habit to erase ‘excrement’ from my mouth at such points when my life starts passing before my eyes, but it would be infinitely better than an OMG. Notice how in such times a word for our Savior is interchangeable with excrement. That makes a statement that I don’t think some potty mouths ever think about.
But why bring this up now? With the recent floods, they showed a video, again on the weather station that I watch, of a creek rising in a Dallas, TX suburb. The woman was filming from inside her house as the water rose outside the window, eventually splashing against the window and leaking under the front door. Through the entire video, she said, “oh my god’ over and over and over again. She accented each word differently. She changed pitch. She definitely changed volume, but she never said anything else. She went from mildly amused to hysterical in 30 seconds, saying maybe 90 words (three words per second – sounds about right), but really only three words many times – constantly cussing and never communicating. It took way too long for her husband to take interest. (Maybe he was so used to her saying those words that he ignored it.) He finally came over and yelled for her and the children to run up the stairs before they all drowned. He saw the problem and took action – no cuss words, no hysteria. (It never got that deep, but the waters did enter their home.)
But maybe the woman was praying… (That’s almost laughable, but maybe.)
That’s why I included the Scripture from Psalm 17. We need to keep those words sacred to a certain extent. We just might need to call on the Lord to pull us out of the frying pan (after we got ourselves in there in the first place). If God hears us, like the Dallas husband heard his wife, He might just think we were cussing again, and ignore us, too. (I know God is still listening, but it’s a thought…)
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.