Written By Crystal Tang, Singapore
We probably have said something before that unwittingly hurt others, caused others to stumble, or even saddened God. While we may not have had the intention of causing harm, what’s done is done. Ephesians 4:29 reminds us to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Let us explore some of the common phrases that may, at the superficial level, mean no harm.
1) “OH MY GOD” / “OMG”
The use of “Oh my God!” is a habitual exclamation many people use to express surprise or astonishment. Perhaps we have been corrected for using that phrase or perhaps we have not. But the question remains—does saying “Oh my God” equate to using God’s name in vain? To say something “in vain” usually denotes an irreverent or improper usage. According to John Piper, we use God’s name in vain when we speak of Him “in a way that empties Him of His significance.” While we may not have meant to “empty” God’s name, such flippant and casual use of His name certainly does not bring glory or honor to God. Exodus 20:7 explicitly warns: “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.”
2) “I SWEAR . . .”
Like the previous phrase, “I swear” may be commonly heard in our casual conversations. For example, “I swear the exam killed me!” or “I swear this isn’t going to work!” Indeed, such exclamations have been accepted as day-to-day expressions and hence, “okay to use.” But Scripture tells us otherwise: “But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God” (Matthew 5:34).
Furthermore, James 5:12 instructs us against the light, casual use of oaths in informal conversation: “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”
3) “YOU’RE SO LUCKY”
Consider this scenario: You’re walking in the park, feeling tired from a hectic day in school. You wish that someone or something would come along and bring some excitement to perk up your bad day. As you walk, you spot your favorite singer taking a stroll, just ten steps ahead. You dash up to the singer and ask to take a selfie; you post the photo on Facebook. Within a few minutes, hundreds of likes flood your notifications. At least half of your friends comment with phrases like “OMG! YOU’RE SO LUCKY!” It made your day.
Does such an experience sound familiar to you? Or perhaps you have used this phrase as a passing remark to others who achieved something that you couldn’t, for example, winning a lucky draw or even falling sick on the same day as the math test. Indeed, life does allow for events that we have no control over to take place, as stated in Ecclesiastes 9:11, “but time and chance happen to them all.” But the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us it is God who is ultimately in control of all happenings. “God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). So, the next time you are about to dismiss something good as a stroke of pure luck, why not say, “Praise the Lord!” Let us remember the sovereignty of God in our lives and hold steadfast to His plans for us.
4) “FOLLOW YOUR HEART”
How many times, during your growing up years, have you been told to just “follow your heart”? For myself, umpteen times. In this fast growing, competitive, and rapidly changing society where passion takes centre stage in decision-making, we are, more often than not, told to just do likewise. However, as Christians, do we just pursue our own desires or do we seek God’s heart in what we do? I guess the answer is clear in Matthew 6:33 which tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Let’s pursue more of the heart of God, and less of ourselves.
5) “YOU’RE GOING TO HELL IF YOU’RE _________”
Perhaps someone tells you that you’re going to hell because of a particular association you have with something or someone. You’re guilt stricken, suddenly unsure of your identity as a Christian. You fear that you are really going to hell just because you are not able to live up to the standard expected of you. Chuck that fear aside.
Romans 8:1 assure us that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Our faith in Christ Jesus grants us full pardon, and nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v.39).
But above all, let’s remember that it is not how good we are that determines our eternal dwelling; it is completely by Christ’s sacrifice that we can be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Note: Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. ESV® Text Edition: 2011.