To be honest, I feel even a little bit guilty typing the words, “Oh my God.” Of course, it is certainly not wrong to use the phrase “Oh my God” when you are actually talking to God or about God (2 Chronicles 6:40). But countless people (including many Christians) use this phrase as an exclamation of surprise or disbelief. Not to mention the popular abbreviation, “OMG.” So, is this practice wrong? What does the Bible say about this?

The Lord’s Name in Vain

In the Ten Commandments, God commanded Israel, “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). To Israel, God wasn’t just a generic or impersonal god. He had revealed Himself to them through the covenant. He had revealed His name to them, “YHWH.”

Though “YHWH” is the most specific way the Israelites could refer to God, it was not the only way. They understood that anytime they referred to their God, they were commanded to do so with reverence and respect. They especially were forbidden from using God’s name to give false testimony or swear an oath they would not fulfill.

In order to avoid breaking this commandment, pious Jews in the time of Jesus would not speak of God directly at all. And when they swore an oath, they would swear by the temple or by heaven or by some other thing, in order to not swear falsely by God’s name. Jesus rebuked this practice and told them if they swore falsely by heaven, they had still used God’s name in vain because┬áheaven “is the throne of God” (Matthew 5:34).

God expected His covenant people to refer to Him – either directly or indirectly – with reverence and respect. This, of course, has not changed. He is still the same God. The Gentiles who’ve come into His family, through faith in Jesus Christ, ought to be careful we do not misuse His name.

Hallowed Be Your Name

Jesus taught His disciples to pray, saying, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). A retired Bible professor, and good friend of mine, recently brought to my attention that there are actually three requests here, though it is hard to recognize them in English.

Jesus literally says, “Our Father in heaven, let your name be hallowed, let your kingdom come, let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus is telling His disciples to pray that our Father’s name be “hallowed” on earth as it is in heaven. In other words, we need to pray that God’s name is revered and respected across the globe. That needs to be the prayer and the longing of every disciple of Jesus.

God’s “name” is not just the specific word, “YHWH.” It is His reputation. It is what is known about Him. God’s covenant people need to live to spread His fame and good reputation across the globe. People draw conclusions about who God is and what He is all about by watching us and listening to us talk about Him. Therefore, we must live and speak of Him in such a way that His name (His reputation) is “hallowed.”

When You Say, “Oh My God”

I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m overstating my case, but I’m afraid that when a Christian says, “Oh my God” or “OMG,” he or she is subtly undermining the Christian mission. Our mission is to be partnering with God to make sure that on earth – just as it is in heaven – His name is hallowed, His rule and reign is established, and His will is done. If we are praying for that, while we are referring to God irreverently, then we are undermining our own efforts and God’s efforts.

In our words and our deeds, let us strive to make Him known. When we say, “Oh my God,” let us be praising Him or imploring Him. Let us strive for His name to be hallowed on our lips and across the world, just as it is in heaven.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams

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