Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give glory.
— Psalm 115:1
by Rod D. Martin
February 28, 2015
The opening words of the 115th Psalm are, in Latin, the same words that King Henry V commanded be sung after his miraculous victory at the Battle of Agincourt, in Latin as “Non nobis, Domine, non nobis sed nomini tuo da gloriam.” They are beautifully sung by Patrick Doyle in Kenneth Branagh’s marvelous 1989 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V. They are, or should be, oft on the mind of every Christian.
But how to implement them?
I once suggested naming something we were contemplating building with our own surname. My saintly mother-in-law gently responded that “I hope you name it for Someone better than that.” And she got me to thinking.
She was certainly correct in principle of course (she generally always is). But was she correct in practice? Should Walmart be Christmart? Should The Martin Organization be The Jesus Organization? It’s a legitimate question.
But it occurred to me then, and the more I considered it the more I think this is right: overuse of any name, even our Lord’s Name, diminishes it. If every cola were called Coke, or every tissue Kleenex, not only would those highly valuable brands lose their legal right to be trademarked, they would also lose their meaning.
Likewise, if every church were Christ Church, or Trinity, or Church of the Holy Father, wouldn’t they all just run together? Would there even be any way to distinguish among them?
In part, we named The Martin Organization — and we will name other things similarly — to distinguish it from other companies. But we also named it because of this discussion. We realized that if we wanted to give glory to Christ’s Name, we needed to do so through our lives and our testimonies, and that if we did so, the name of our company would point to Him. This has certainly proven true for Chick-Fil-A, whose quiet refusal to open its stores on Sunday has provoked more questions and provided more opportunities for helpful discussion than an ixthus in the window ever could have done.
We also know, not least from the many businesses who do use that ixthus, that we are sinners; and should we ever bring shame upon our name, we would prefer it to be our name, not the Lord’s.
Moreover, we realized that company names become mere labels after a while: how many people think about what or whom is behind the name of any given thing? And the more indistinguishable from others, the fewer questions are asked.
Yet at least some people will always want to know who J.P. Morgan was: what did he stand for? How did he build his company? What made him do what he did? Carnegie Hall makes us — at least a few of us — wonder about Andrew Carnegie. Stanford University makes you ask questions about the long-ago California governor and senator who helped create the transcontinental railroad. There is inspiration in those stories, and examples for good and ill. Their stories matter.
Our stories matter.
We decided that we wanted future generations to ask about our stories. They might not ask about something with the same name as thousands of other things. But they might wonder who those Martin people were.
We hope so. We hope we leave something behind worth wondering about. And we hope very much that in that day, our story will point them to the One who has given us all we have, and that even our many failings will serve to show Him great.