To take or to carry? Violating the third commandment

By David A. Liapis

The other night I watched a video of author and speaker Dennis Prager and Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias entitled The Death of Truth, The Decline of Culture. At one point, moderator Jeff Foxworthy asked the two men if they believe religious people have contributed to the decline of culture (10:37). Prager mentioned in part of his answer that one of the accusations against religion is that more people have been killed in the name of God/religion than by any other means. He goes on to make his point by contradicting the popular interpretation of one of the Ten Commandments, which I will get into a little later.

First, let me say I have heard the “religion has killed…” argument myself a number of times in discussions with critics and skeptics. The short answer is that many more millions of people have been killed in the name of secularism (Communism, Nazism, etc.) and abortion. However and yes, millions have sadly been killed in the name of religion. The problem with this assertion, often made by atheists, is that it does not delineate between religions, such as Islam and, say, Jehovah’s Witnesses. I haven’t heard of many JW terrorists. Sure, their theology is skewed, but the only violence they can be accused of is beating on millions of doors. Furthermore, skeptics and critics certainly don’t care to distinguish between people who claim to be Christians and those who truly are (which is a claim that can only really be validated by judging their “fruits” as Jesus said in Matthew 12:33).

Here is where Prager’s interpretation of the third commandment – to not take the Lord’s name in vain – becomes very relevant to this discussion. He argues, and the ancient Hebrew text supports him, that this passage has been incorrectly interpreted. The Hebrew word נָשָׂא, or “nasa” (pronounced nah-saw), means “to bear” or “to carry.” I grew up believing that saying “Oh, my God” or “Jeez” were how people violated this commandment. Now, I still believe we should use the name of the Lord reverently no matter which one we use to refer to Him by, but I now understand this commandment condemns much more than simply the flippant use of God’s name. Rather, it condemns committing evil in the name of God. When someone “bears” or “carries” the name of God as justification for wickedness, they are violating the third commandment. This would certainly include executing people or waging war in the name of the one true God, Yahweh. Any other god in whose name violence is perpetrated is tragic, but it’s not done in the name of the true God.

It was with these thoughts fresh in my mind that I read a very troubling news feature this morning about an “evangelical church” that, in my opinion, is grossly violating this commandment. I would love, in Christian charity, to give the Word of Faith church leaders and complicit members the benefit of the doubt, but there are far more than two or three witnesses and this is not the only church-cult I’ve heard of that uses these tactics to control and abuse members. This cult (it’s not a true church) uses lies, manipulation, verbal and physical abuse, slander, false witness (violating the ninth commandment) and other sinful means in the name of God to maintain control of people and grow their numbers.

What this cult does in the name of God is abhorrent and despicable, and the woman who leads this cult and those who join her will be held accountable someday. One of the sad results of this cult’s actions – aside from the broken and confused children who suffer there – is that many people will read this article and conclude, “See, all Christians are lunatics, criminals, abusers and deceivers.” These people will see this cult’s actions as confirmation of all the mischaracterizations they’ve heard and seen about true Christians and Gospel-centered churches.

To those who are not Christians, I urge you to find true, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving and emulating Christians and learn what is really taught and who God really is. There are so many people who carry the name of God in vain and yet have no concept of what it means to be a follower of Christ or to understand the Bible.

To my fellow believers in Christ Jesus, join me in actively seeking to disprove the misconceptions about who we are in relation to Christ and the world. We must expose and contradict false teaching, which means we need to study and understand God’s Word and be ready at all times to give a reason for the hope that’s in us. We cannot remain ignorant or silent. There are far too many cults and other religious groups that are much more educated, much more vocal and much more equipped to advance their false religion in violation of the third commandment.

Let me conclude by quoting Ephesians 5:11-16.

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

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