Does it mean we can’t say things like “Oh my God” or “OMG”? Or does it just mean we can’t say “G-d d&mm@%”? Can we just not use God’s name when we are angry? Or is it something else entirely?
Well, first, what does “vain” mean anyway? Here, vain means “useless or lacking substance.” So the commandment is essentially saying not to throw around God’s name lightly. We should never empty God’s name of it’s weight and significance.
Therefore, saying “Oh my God and my Lord Jesus! My leg is on fire, please help me!” is not taking the Lord’s name in vain because we are recognizing God’s supreme power over all things – including over fire and our burning leg.
But if we say “Oh my God, I love your new slap bracelet!” this has emptied God’s name of significance and treated God as a triviality. Not good.
If this is something you struggle with, just say “dad-gum” instead:
Dad gum, that song is stuck in my head now!
There’s a tendency, too, to say that “words are just words. Let’s not get so hung up on mere words.” But words are very powerful. And just as it’s “from the fullness of the heart that the mouth speaks,” our words then also return back to our ears and inform the heart. Every word that we speak changes us (and everyone else who hears it)! Do not underestimate the power of your words.
Bonus challenge: It’s not just God’s name we shouldn’t use in vain. In actuality, everyone’s name is sacred (even your least favorite person’s). It is sacred because each person has the dignity of being a creation of God. So we should treat each person — and their name — accordingly. Do you treat people’s names as sacred?