More than Lip Service

MEMORY VERSE: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” —Matthew 7:21


TO OPEN the lesson we have one of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” By many this is understood to mean profane language in which God’s name is irreverently used, but we doubt if this is the real meaning of the commandment. Many commentators hold that the reference is to the wide use in eastern countries of special oaths to seal special bargains or contracts. In taking these oaths one would often swear by the name of a deity; the Israelites, of course in the name of their God. This it is said, is what is referred to by not taking the name of the Lord in vain, which would be done if his name were thus used and the oath not honored.

But we think that the more likely meaning goes deeper than this. Those who dedicate themselves wholly to God are subscribing to his name. James explained concerning the calling of the Gentiles that “God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name.”—Acts 15:14

The Lord said that the Israelites had profaned his name among the heathen, or Gentiles. (Ezek. 36:22) Those who accept Jehovah as their God are expected to reverence and adore his name, and bring glory to it through their faithfulness to his laws and precepts. Those who are unfaithful to their covenant with him are guilty of taking his name in vain, and of profaning his name, and as the remainder of the commandment reads, “The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain”


Jesus said, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.” (vs. 1) Jesus enlarges upon this with the admonition not to sound a trumpet to announce our giving of alms. This, he indicates, would be seeking the plaudits and rewards of men rather than of God. Jesus indicates that hypocrites did this very thing in the synagogues in his day. “Verily I say unto you, They have their reward,” but it comes from men, not from God.

The giving of alms, Jesus explained, should be done in secret, and when this principle is carried out the Lord “himself shall reward thee openly” (vs. 4) Jesus applies the same principle to praying. The main point is that our service to the Lord, and our prayers, should be in his name, and therefore not made a public display. “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.”—vs. 3

MARK 7:5-8

The Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus why his disciples did not practice the traditions of the elders. “He answered and said unto them, Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. (Isa. 29:13) The text in Isaiah adds, “Their fear toward me is taught by the precept [traditions] of men.”

In Jesus’ day the traditions of the elders failed to hold before the people the great God of the Bible as the God of love. The scribes and Pharisees held the people more or less through fear, even as has been true throughout the age. Jesus made it plain that he did not want his disciples to follow the example of the scribes and Pharisees. He wanted them, rather, to be loyal to the Word of God, and in doing this their teachings would lead to love for God, love for one another, and for the whole world of mankind.

Traditions of men frequently, although not always, lead in the opposite direction. The washing of pots and cups in itself did not inculcate fear, but those who did not follow this and other traditions were ostracized and threatened—made to feel that they were disloyal to God.

Our memory verse is right on the point of the lesson, showing, as it does, that mere lip service is not enough; that it is only those who actually do the will of the Heavenly Father who will enter into the ruling phase of the kingdom of heaven. We might deceive men, by a “Lord, Lord,” but not the Lord himself.


What does it mean to take God’s name in vain?

Whom should we strive to serve with our alms and prayers?

Mention some of the evils resulting from the traditions of men.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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