The Second Commandment – You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain

by admin on August 30, 2011

«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.* (Deut 5, 11).

This commandment obliges us to live in the truth with God, with our neighbour and with ourselves. God abhors lies, because God is truth. In the Gospel of St. John we read: «And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.-* (Jn 1,14). And in another place in the same Gospel, Jesus Christ says of Himself: «I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.» (Jn 14, 6). If, as Jesus says, we cannot go to the Father except by Him, and He is the Truth, this shows that we cannot go to God except by the way of truth.

We cannot deceive God, because He sees right into everything, just like the crystalline water which flows out of the clearest spring. God al­ways has before Him our works, our intentions, and our desires.

We speak the truth to God when we are faithful to our promises, our vows, and our oaths. In Sacred Scripture we read: « When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not be slack to pay it; for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin in you. But it you refrain from vowing, it shall be no sin in you. You shall be careful to perform what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth.* (Deut 23, 21-23) .

However, when we do not keep our promises, we lie to God. Our vows, our oaths and our promises have invoked God in vain. Besides, as the sacred text says, nobody obliged us to promise; we made this offering to God of our own free will. Hence, once it is made, we are obliged to keep it.

In the same way, we cannot deceive our neighbour, and still less call on God to witness our false, deceitful and guileful statements. God takes as done to Himself the good or evil done to our neighbour. Jesus Christ teaches us this in the Gospel: « Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me* (Mt 25,40). And God takes it into account in order to punish or reward. That is what we see in the scene of the Last Judgement: «When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand. ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me, ‘And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.f> (Mt 25, 31-46).

Here, God reveals Himself as a father who considers as done to him­self whatever good or evil is done to his children. If God speaks to us like this about the good which we have neglected to do to others, what will He say to us about the evil we have caused them? What will He say to us if, through craft, trickery or cunning, we have deceived our neighbour? And we do this whenever we take advantage of someone’s ingenuousness or the confidence that he or she had in us, and then we excuse ourselves, saying: “If they hadn’t been so stupid, if they hadn’t let themselves be deceived!” But, what will God’s answer be to all lies of this kind, of which, unfortu­nately, the world is full?

Any deceit, any hypocrisy, any pretence is a lie. Its gravity is measured by the degree of harm done to the glory of God or the good of others. We see, in the Gospel, how God condemns this sin. «Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites1, for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.(…) Fill up, then, the meas­ure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?» (Mt 23: 23, 32-33).

Jesus rebuked the doctors of the law, saying: «Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers^ (Lk 11,46). And He was to conclude this discourse with the following recommendation to his disciples: ^Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. (…) Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him!» (Lk 12, 1-5).

This language on the part of Jesus Christ may strike us as harsh, but its severity is directed against such behaviour on our part towards others. For his part, God is simply the Father defending His children and the Judge who, to an equal degree, rewards good and punishes evil.

If we look at the world, considering how people lived in the time of Jesus and, unfortunately, how they live today, the picture we see is frighten­ing! And yet, it is reality, in so far as it refers to the word of God and what it tells us about human life. Taking advantage of other people’s ignorance, their weakness, their need, their confidence, all this is lying, a sin against justice, against the law of charity and against the truth. Thinking about these abuses the Lord says: «Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (…) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire» (Mt 7,15.19).

Often we lie to ourselves, and thus deceive ourselves. Carried away by blind passion, we promise ourselves happiness where it is not to be found.

God created us free, able to think, desire and decide. We are beings who think and know, as far as the power of understanding in our own intelligence allows us. It is in virtue of our own power of thought and our own intelligence that we are responsible for everything we do of our own free will.

We deceive ourselves when we exchange good for evil, following what is attractive to our evil inclinations, without thinking of the grave conse­quences which ensue. Jesus Christ, speaking to the Jews, said: « Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. (…) You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing’ to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies» (Jn 8, 34.44). The devil, prompted by pride, caused his own downfall and that of those he dragged after him; he de­ceived himself and deceived those who followed him. Wanting to raise himself above God, he fell into the depths of the abyss; wanting to climb higher, he sank even lower!

The same thing happens to us, if we let ourselves be carried away by the temptations of the devil, the world and the flesh. This is how the sacred text describes one of the temptations prepared by the devil for Jesus Christ: «Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the primacy of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, thrown yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone”. Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.‘» (Mt 4, 5-7). It is the temptation to pride, which often seduces us, and we do not know how to resist it as Christ did. Throw yourself down, you will come to no harm! The Angels will come and bear you up on their hands; you will not be injured by the stones on which you fall. And you will be a spectacle to the world which will stand and admire you.

The temptation to pride is a lie! Throw yourself over the precipice of vice, no harm will come to you! Go down! Why do we not rather set our­selves to climb upwards instead of descending? Mount, climb higher! Be pure, chaste, just, be faithful to God and to your neighbour, be restrained in your conduct. Go higher and God will embrace you in his fatherly arms. Why does temptation not urge us to go upwards instead of going down? Because to go up is truth, and to go down is falsehood; and, like the devil, vice, passion and the world are false, they cannot give us true advice. Thus, very often, we allow ourselves to be deceived, and it is only when we find ourselves lost that we realise the fact.

In order to overcome the temptations which surround us, we have to struggle against falsehood because that is what all temptations are. In the Book of Revelation, St. John describes the struggle between the good An­gels who remained faithful to God and the bad Angels who rebelled: «Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him, (Rev 12, 7-9). See what Sacred Scripture calls the devil: the deceiver of the whole world. Temptation is always seductive, whether it comes from ourselves, from the world or from the devil; it is always deceitful: it promises us what it cannot give.

True happiness is found only in God: the further we draw away from God, the more we sink down, and the more unhappy we become; the nearer we draw towards God, the happier we are and the greater we be­come as persons, because only in God are truth, justice, true love and great­ness to be found. Therefore, God forbids us to take his name in vain.

Ave Maria!

Click Here to see the List of The Ten Commandments with 122 Questions to Examine Your Conscience with.

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