“Oh, my God!” Meaningless Expression or Power Words?

Speak God’s name with reverence.

"Oh, my God!"
One thing missing in society today is a deep, soul-level reverence for God.

We hear people utter God’s name, all day long, but they’re not actually talking to Him — or even about Him. “Oh, my God!” and “Jesus!” and “Oh, Lord!” become just meaningless expressions, convenient ways to respond to a funny joke or dumb thing we see someone do. Get upset, and many people attach God’s name to a curse word. (Even many Christians.)

“It’s just an expression,” says our culturally tolerant society. “It doesn’t mean anything. Use it all you want.” 

Really? The Bible specifically tells us to “not take the name of the Lord our God in vain.” That makes this societal “truth” one hundred percent untrue, people!

What does “take in vain” mean? In his article on ChristianityToday.com, Pastor John Piper suggests it means “don’t empty the name.” Says Piper, “So it doesn’t just refer to a certain tone of voice or a certain use of the word. It’s dealing with God and speaking of God in a way that empties Him of his significance.”

Just an Expression?

We’re all so used to hearing God’s name emptied of significance in everyday conversation that we act like it’s no big deal. We don’t get upset by it. We don’t ask people to stop doing it. Some of us really have never even thought about whether the expressions matter — or if they offend God.

Society has conditioned us to use God’s name publicly when we don’t mean it — but also to feel weird in wanting to use it when our intent is to purposefully bless someone. An easy example: When was the last time you heard someone say, “God bless you” when someone else sneezed? At best they got a watered down “Bless you.” But most likely they were ignored because, really, who cares? (God does!)

In his article for Decision Magazine, Don Wilton writes, “The name of God has everything to do with all that God is. When His name is pulled down into the mass of human society, everything pertaining to His unique and sovereign ability is devalued.”

Stop and think about that. Can you see how our mindless use of the expressions devalue and dilute our appreciation for the mind-boggling power of God? Note that I didn’t say that His power is diluted. It’s not. God still holds this world in the palm of His hand.

Power in the Name?

Adds Piper, “Not just swear ways but cheap ways, low and insignificant ways, that just treat Him like a commodity. And when you hear them you sense that there is no weight to that sentence, no corresponding emotion to that statement. It seems to have just been gutted. God, Christ, the cross, the things He is and the things He did are great, and they’re weighty. And there’s a certain corresponding demeanor of worship that should be there.”

Think about how often you personally use God’s name, in both your self-talk and in conversations with others. Do you blame Him with a curse word when you get upset? Is your “Oh, my God!” a killer Valley Girl imitation? (I had that one down cold, complete with eye roll and hand on hip!)

To get some perspective, I asked young kids, “Would you like it if people said your name every time they cussed or made fun of someone?” Overwhelmingly they say no. As one child said, “Jesus is my friend. That wouldn’t be a nice.” Out of the mouth of babes!

If Jesus is “our friend,” why would we talk about him in ways that don’t honor him? Reality check: if we’re praising God in church (or when trying to sound spiritual with our Christian friends), but using His name in vain outside of it, we might want to ask ourselves why that is. When culture tells us that something is okay — when it’s not — we have to make a conscious effort to not just go along with the flow.

Society, both subtly and overtly, tells us that we really shouldn’t talk about God publicly “because it might make someone uncomfortable.” God, by His very sovereignty, should make all of us uncomfortable! We’re all sinners in need of saving grace.

Worship leader Kim Walker, in her soul-gripping version of Break Every Chain, reminds us of the power held by the name of Jesus. The power to heal. The power to forgive. The power to restore. The power to defeat death! When we call on His name, we call on the power of Heaven itself. 

God cares about our words. That’s why the Bible tells us to use them wisely. Friends, let’s be intentional when we call upon His name.

Thought to Ponder

Try finding a movie or TV show these days that doesn’t blasphemy God’s name. Seriously. What’s the go-to expression for most characters? Yup. That one. Have you ever asked yourself why that is? Why don’t script writers find other names to use? They certainly have their pick! Would you agree that the issue might be a spiritual one? Satan has long been actively devaluing God’s name, to make it appear powerless. Fortunately, no matter how hard he tries, he won’t win!

Would you be up for a challenge this week? Okay, here goes: count the number of times you casually reference God and Jesus in your conversations this week. The count might be much higher than you expect. Talk to God about how you might be more mindful of how you use His name, and how you might use His name to be a source of blessing and power to those He puts in your path.