The directive, “Watch your mouth,” has been uttered for many years by parents telling their children to watch what they say. If a child is getting passionate and high-spirited in a discussion with his or her parents, the child will hear, “Watch your mouth!” If a child starts getting sassy and insolent with his or her parents, the parents might retort, “Watch your mouth!”
In the third of His ten “Love Letters” (Exodus 20:3-17) to us, His children, God is telling us, “Watch your mouth.” When you refer to Me or when you speak to Me, there is a certain way you are re supposed to call My name. You are not to be careless. You are not to be reckless. You are not to be funny. You are not to be facetious or flippant. If you love Me, call Me by My right name and use My name in the right way.”
Clearly, God is protective of His name, which is why He told us to proceed with caution in the handling of His name. He specifically said in Exodus 20:7, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”1
To “take in vain” means to use God’s name in an irreverent or irresponsible manner. It means to treat it with no more respect than any other word in the English language.
Our works should testify to our words
But God gave us His name, YAHWEH, which means “I AM that I AM”2 to underscore the importance of His name, and to emphasize that it was not to be used in cavalier fashion. In fact, Hebrew history indicates that in biblical times God’s name was off limits to be pronounced. The only people who were given license to pronounce His name were the high priests. None of the Hebrews or Israelites would ever announce His name because His name was holy.
Holy is defined as “set apart for the service of God; sacred.”3 Because the name of God is holy, it is set aside; set apart. It is not to be played with, used in meaningless banter, or verbalized in crass profanity. If you’re going to love God the way He wants to be loved, He’s saying, “Watch your mouth when it comes to My name!”
Let me add, however, another injunction when it comes to the name of God. Through our actions and behavior, we should also properly reflect God’s name. Put simply, God’s name is not limited to our conversation, but it also encompasses our conduct. Hence, the application of this love letter from God extends beyond our words and also includes our works because the way we live can be an affront to the name of God. Our works should testify to our words. As Christians, we are followers of Christ, and our actions should align with Whom we follow. We are not to be bad advertisement for God, typifying inconsistency between our words and our works. Others should know we are Christians by our love. If we’re going to carry God’s name, let’s carry it proudly!
The power of life and death is in our tongues.4 Let’s speak life and watch our mouths.
CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in
Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.
*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version.
1 Exodus 20:7.
2 Exodus 3:14.
4 Proverbs 18:21