Thursday, July 28, 2011

Taking God's Name in Vain

I was reading a book earlier this week that brought up a point I’ve heard before: “The ancient Hebrew prohibition against using the name of God in vain is not about using God’s name in profanity, nor simply about frivolous vows. It is a caution against living as if God does not matter.” (From What God Wants for Your Life by Frederick W. Schmidt)

I have been thinking about the ways I live in which God doesn’t matter. It’s disturbing to think about how I rush through life without considering God in my decisions. For every decision I make carries with it the opportunity to live as if God matters. From the choices about what I eat to what I wear to my driving habits and spending habits, I am in every choice deciding if God matters to me. How I interact with anyone I see during the day is a statement of whether God matters to me. My decision to speak or be silent says whether God matters to me.

It can be overwhelming to consider all the effects of the decisions I make each day. It could almost paralyze me from making any decision, but even that is a decision in itself. Yet I consider a line of a prayer by Thomas Merton, which says: ‘I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You.” Rather than throwing up my hands and giving up, I want to persist in being increasingly attentive to the choices I make, trusting that even when I fail to make the choice that honors God, God’s grace envelops me and encourages me to continue on the journey.

The greatest tragedy is to know the right decision and then choose deliberately to take the easier path, the socially acceptable path, the culturally encouraged path. I do this far more than I would like to think I do, whether it’s for my convenience or comfort or simply because I really do want to eat that barbeque sandwich made from a pig whose life was worse than death. When I put my desires first, I am taking God’s name in vain.

Even if my steps are only baby steps, and they are, and even though I stumble and give in to the culture around me, I know that I cannot just shrug my shoulders and do nothing, for that would be choosing to live as if God didn’t matter. I pray that my desire to please God will grow beyond desire and into action.

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