The Second Commandment.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”
What does ‘vain’ mean? Vain is defined in 4 ways:
1. Having no real value.
2. Marked by futility or ineffectualness.
3. Foolish, silly.
4. Having or showing undue or excessive pride in one’s appearance or achievements.
As Catholics, we use the first three definitions on how we look at vain for the commandment. So, as long as we are using God’s name to give Him glory, it is perfectly acceptable to say His name. The Jews took it very seriously and even the mention of God’s name would have resulted in death. They would stone (throw stones at) the culprit to death.
So, after understanding what vain means, the Second Commandment is fairly straight forward. Do not use God’s name in a bad way. So, without further delay, let’s look at some mortal sins that demonstrate this.
Using God’s name as a curse
Anytime that we use God’s name and we are not giving Him glory, we are using His name in vain. Anytime that we say “Oh my God” or “Jesus Christ” and we are saying it in a negative way, we are disobeying God. In our society, it is incredibly common to hear these swears in a very casual way. Far too often we hear “Oh my God” used as if it wasn’t a big deal, and it really is. We are not giving God praise, nor are we complimenting Him. It is all waste. Now, if you happen to struggle with this, I encourage you to be more self-aware of what you say. Replace them with “Oh my gosh” or “Jeez o Petes” or whatever suits your fancy. It will take awhile to break the habit, but you will become more aware of what you are saying. It may go from saying it and realizing it a minute or two afterwards, to saying it and realizing it immediately, to eventually you will start saying better things instead.
Committing perjury occurs when you lie under oath in the court of law. In America, when you are sworn in to give your testimony, you swear upon God’s name that you are telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God. You have now sworn upon God’s name that you will tell the truth. When you intentionally tell a lie under this oath, you have now caused ineffectiveness against the Lord’s name.
Telling a lie in confession or withholding a serious sin
In confession, you are not only telling your sins to the priest, but you are telling them to Jesus. The priest is inpersona christi or in the person of Christ. Now, God knows all of your sins, so, what is the big deal if I don’t confess everything? It turns out, that you are not trusting in God and you are being prideful when you withhold a sin. Not only that, but when you lie, you are adding more sin on top of what you currently have and negate the effects of the confession.
The act of seriously insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence from God. When we are insulting God in this way, we are doing it out of spite, hate, contempt, etc. God, being our Lord and Creator, deserves all of our respect, even if we feel that He doesn’t deserve it. God is all Good. You can’t have any good in the world without the goodness of God. Thus, when you deny this goodness, you are in essence denying God.
Serious slander or insult of a sacred person or other holy person
Similar to above, we are insulting someone that deserves respect. Someone who is sacred (such as a Saint) or another holy individual (a Blessed, Venerable, Servant of God, etc) has proven that they are a good person. Now, we aren’t talking about harmless jokes that aren’t a big deal. We are talking about anything that is just wrong. For example, mocking someone for something they didn’t do or even worse, accusing one of something highly immoral that they couldn’t have done.
As I’ve said before, if after reading this you have realized that you have gone committed these sins, GET TO CONFESSION! Now, I’m not writing this to condemn. I want you to become a better person. The potential of losing a chance at eternal life and salvation because of not knowing what is a sin, would be sad and dreadful.
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This post is one of many in a series on Mortal Sins. Click here for more posts explaining and defining mortal sins.