No, “OMG” is not appropriate
“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.” (Exodus 20:7, ESV)
What is God’s “Name”, and what does it mean to take God’s Name in vain?
God’s “Name” represents His character, His Being, His glorious attributes. God’s “Name” is who God is in the perfection of majestic Being. In Holy Scripture God reveals His character, His attributes, in part through revealing His names.
To take God’s Name in vain is to lift God’s Name up to vanity. It is not only to engage in open blasphemy and other forms of overt, active rebellion against God, God’s works and God’s words (although that too is taking God’s Name in vain). It is also to treat God’s Name (His reality, His attributes, His word and works) in a careless, trivial, light, even “laid back” manner.
There are many ways that we sinners are guilty of taking the Lord’s Name in vain.
We take God’s Name in vain every time we disobey Him in thought, word and deed.
We take His Name in vain when we allow our minds to wander in church, when we should be giving our full, undivided attention to the worship and the Word of God.
In fact, we take His Name in vain whenever we as professing Christians fail to live up to our profession of faith by our doctrine, by our words, and by our manner of living.
I say all of this before addressing the main concern of this blog article because I want to make it clear to the reader that I recognize we are all guilty (including myself), in many ways, of taking our Lord’s holy Name in vain; and therefore I want the reader to recognize that we all need the mercy and forgiveness of God offered to us in the good news of Jesus Christ. I too am a sinner, a blasphemer who has often, in many ways, taken our Lord’s holy Name in vain, and I continue to struggle with this sin on a daily basis. So let the reader understand that I do not intend to address this issue from a “holier-than-thou” standpoint of self-righteousness.
One of the popular ways today that many people, both Christians and non-Christians, take God’s Name in vain is through the use of the acronym “OMG.” What does “OMG” stand for? A good definition for this acronym can be found in the “Urban Dictionary”: “Net-centric abbreviation for the popular exclamation “Oh my God!” (generally used in conversations to exclaim surprise or disgust).” (Source: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=omg)
So, “OMG” means “Oh my God!”
How is this acronym and abbreviation a taking of God’s Name in vain? To answer that question, let me ask another: How many individuals who lace their conversations with “OMG” do so with the intention of showing honor and reverence to their Almighty Creator by that abbreviation? How many use “OMG” as a shorthand way of invoking and praying to God? I suspect the answer to these questions is likely, “Almost nobody.” After all, in current use “OMG” is intended to express surprise and/or disgust.
“Oh, come on Pastor! Take a chill pill. Nobody who uses this acronym intends by their use of it to blaspheme God. In fact, most people don’t even give any thought to what OMG means. It’s just a way of expressing surprise. So relax, don’t take this so seriously!”
But isn’t this just the point? If most people who use the abbreviation “OMG” (which, as we’ve established, stands for “Oh my God!”) don’t even think about or take seriously what this abbreviation stands for, that is the very heart of what it means to “lift God’s Name up to vanity”, to “take God’s Name in vain.” To thoughtlessly use God’s Name (or that which represents God’s Name) in an unserious, trivial way is precisely what Scripture forbids when it forbids blasphemy, the taking of God’s Name in vain.
In explaining the third commandment the Westminster Shorter Catechism, in answer to Question # 54 (“What is required in the third commandment?”) explains the requirements of the third commandment as follows: “The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word and works.”
Likewise, in explaining what the third commandment forbids in answer to Question # 55 (“What is forbidden in the third commandment?”), it states the following: “The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh himself known.”
One of the ways that God makes Himself known is by His Name. Therefore, according to our Shorter Catechism, we must hold His Name in reverence and honor, and not use it in profane or trivial chatter, which is what happens when we lace our conversations with “OMG” and similar terms.
In our casual, “laid back” day and age where most people (including, sadly, many Christians) have lost any concept of the absolute holiness, seriousness, and weightiness of the reality of God, and where most prefer a casual, chummy, unserious approach to the Almighty Creator God, a blog article like this one is likely to be dismissed with indifference or disdain. But, for those who through God’s grace tremble at the Word, my hope is that God will use this feeble effort to inspire within all of us a deeper desire to show greater honor and reverence toward God’s holy Name in our lives, including in the expressions that we use in our conversations (whether in person or online). Let us strive to avoid expressions like “OMG” which trivialize God’s holy Name. Instead, may we strive to honor God in our speech and in our writing.