The familiar words of the third commandment have much to say about our relation to God’s creation: “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” (Ex. 20:7).
At first sight, it might seem rather farfetched to say that this commandment relates to environmentalism. But on further examination, we can see a strong connection.
First, we can discover that the “name of the Lord” includes not only his actual names in the Bible, but all the ways by which he makes himself known, including his creation.
Second, to “take his name in vain” means not only using it carelessly or profanely in speech, but also misusing any of the means by which he reveals himself, including his Word and his works. This second truth directs us as we live in this world, which God has created to reveal his wisdom, power, and goodness.
In order to determine what the third commandment requires, we first must determine what it means when it says, “the name of the Lord thy God.” Just what is meant by his “name”? Identity with God himself The name of God includes the many names given him in the Bible, such as “God,” “the Lord,” “the Almighty,” “the Holy One,” “Yahweh (or Jehovah),”1 and many other names. However, the name of God means much more than these individual words. In Scripture the name of God is the equivalent of his attributes and person. To “fear his name” is just another way of saying to “fear God” himself: “If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD.” (Dt. 28:58)
Likewise, the prophet Malachi says that to insult the name of God is to insult the person of God.2 In a similar way, the “name of God” can be said to act as God himself acts: “The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; th