So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the Lord. And you shall not profane my holy name, but I will be hallowed among the people of Israel; I am the Lord who sanctify you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord. [Leviticus 22:31-33 (RSV)]
For several years, a well-known and highly regarded actor/comedian’s name was synonymous with fatherhood and family values. After becoming the subject of sexual abuse allegations, spanning more than fifty years, by more than fifty women, his name went from respected to scorned. Several universities rescinded the honorary degrees awarded him, removed him from their boards and fund-raising campaigns, and eradicated his name from buildings and scholarships. His statue was removed from a Disney theme park, reruns of his shows were cancelled, there was a petition to revoke his Presidential Medal of Freedom, and he was dumped by his agent. No one wanted their good names tarnished by any association with such disgraceful behavior.
Names and reputations are important and none of us want our names to be besmirched by someone else’s words or actions. Apparently, God felt the same way when He gave us that often ignored commandment about not taking His name in vain. Some Bibles translate “in vain” as misusing, using thoughtlessly or irreverently, or making empty promises in God’s name. Whatever Bible we use, the meaning is clear; we must honor God’s name and never use it in a disrespectful, false or blasphemous way.
When Jesus taught us to pray, after addressing our Father in heaven, He said the words, “Hallowed be thy name.” Although some Bibles translate that sentence as, “May your name be kept holy,” the King James’ words are the ones most of us use in the Lord’s Prayer. I used to think those words were a call to worship and pretty much dismissed them as part of the preface to the actual prayer. I hadn’t realized that they are the first petition (or request) the prayer makes. In those four prayerful words, “Hallowed be thy name,” we are appealing to God to help us keep His commandment about not dishonoring His name! That sentence, however, means far more than just not cursing or committing perjury after promising to tell the truth.
If we call ourselves Christians—followers of Jesus Christ—whenever we act or speak shamefully we are not keeping God’s name holy. If we distort God’s word with our witness or actions, His name is not hallowed. It’s not just blasphemy, irreverence or profanity; hypocrisy, deception, treachery, insincerity, falseness, and immorality of any kind profane His name! We don’t have to be celebrities and have our transgressions blasted across the tabloids; we disgrace His name whenever we speak or act in any way that dishonors Him.
If we never get beyond those four little words, “Hallowed be thy name,” we’ve said enough. In that one sentence, we ask God to make our words and actions reflect His holiness. We express our desire to live godly lives and ask Him to enable us to live in a way that makes His name holy. Heavenly Father, hallowed be thy name!