In Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11, the third Commandment forbids taking God’s name in “vain”. Why? And what does that have to do with marriage? The questions are actually closely related. In many cultures, when a woman marries she takes her husband’s name and the children take the father’s name. Similarly, when anyone follows Jesus, they take His name as “Christian” (little Christ).
The name of a person (or organization) conveys the “weight” of their character and authority. “You’re a Smith, aren’t you?” “In the Jones’ family, we forgive.” “Open up, in the name of the law!” It’s no coincidence that the Old Testament’s original Hebrew words for vanity and glory are polar opposites: emptiness and weight, respectively. Christian marriage is to glorify (convey the weight) of His name.
As implied in the first Commandment, every one of us has some person or thing as our highest love: material possessions, pleasure, reputation, looks, etc. The highest love in a Christian marriage must be God. So, the second Commandment implies that we need to know and love all “sides” of Him as revealed in His Word and His Son, Jesus, not trying to see God through any limited image in this world. Now the third Commandment implies the proper result: our growing deep respect, affection, and submission to Him, like children who are humbly but rightly proud of their Parent’s name.
Consider how the “weight” (or emptiness) of a name can influence decisions and habits in a marriage.
- I grew up in a family business that was well-known for great customer service and long hours. So I value serving others but tend to over-commit myself. My wife’s father was a beloved coach, so she also values hard work and excellence. Both of us struggle not to impose perfectionism on our kids.
- Many military brats grew up under the “name” of their parent’s rank or position (high or low) and have extreme positions on authority and structure: they may duplicate a Drill Sergeant mentality or be overly-relaxed. And opposites often attract in marriage, but they don’t easily live well together.
- Spouses who grew up in an unusually isolated setting (with no prominent “name”, good or bad) may want to make a name for themselves. Spouses who grew up in an unusually prominent setting may want to blend in. Again, opposites attract but usually struggle to unite.
- One spouse grew up with loving but absent (working) parents, daily uncertain of the weight or emptiness of their parents’ name or their own. The other spouse’s family was known to be quick-tempered and heavy-handed. They insulted their kids and then bought them a toy, hit them and then asked for forgiveness. That spouse understandably doubts anyone’s “love”. Both struggle with personal value and trust.
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