Beyond the name that’s been given you or the name you’ve made for yourself, the most important thing about your name is where it is written.
Their request was denied by the German government, which has laws making harmful or dishonorable names illegal.
I’ve often wondered how much of children’s personalities come from their names. Some children have a great burden to carry into adulthood, having so much or so little expected of them because of their names. Sometimes a name is empowering, allowing a person to grow into a self-understanding that is positive and filled with self-esteem.
We see examples of this in the Bible. It’s interesting how so many of the characters’ personalities fit their names perfectly in the Bible. Or is it that their names fit their personalities? For example, Adam means “human being,” and Eve means “life giving.”
Abraham means “father of multitudes.” Three of the world’s most important religions trace their heritage to Abraham: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel,” which means “he strives with God.” Moses means “drawn out.” Not only was he drawn out of the water as a baby, but God drew him out of the desert as a shepherd and used him to draw out a nation of people from Pharoah’s bondage.
Achan means “troubler.” In Israel’s military campaign in Canaan, his theft of items in the destruction of Jericho led to a defeat in their next battle. His actions troubled the nation. Ruth means “companion/friend.” When her husband and father-in-law died, she refused to leave Naomi, her mother-in-law.
David means “beloved.” This great king was Israel’s most beloved king, who was a direct ancestor of Jesus. Jesus, the name above all names, means “Yahweh is salvation.”
Sometimes in the Bible, children had to endure the burden of their names. When the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines, Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, were killed. When the wife of Phinehas heard the news, she gave birth prematurely and had a difficult delivery. As she was dying, she named her boy Ichabod, which means “the glory has departed from Israel.” Imagine having to carry the burden of that name.
The prophet Hosea, demonstrating that even millennia ago preachers used their kids as sermon illustrations, named one child Lo-Ruhamah, because God was no longer going to show love to the people of Israel. He named another one Lo-Ammi, meaning God was no longer going to be their God and they were not going to be his people because of their unfaithfulness. Hosea’s children’s names reminded Israel that they were being judged by God.
What kind of name has been given to you? Perhaps you’ve been given a name that made your life easier than it might otherwise have been. Perhaps your life has been more difficult because of the name given to you, like the boy from Shel Silverstein’s humorous song, “A Boy Named Sue.”
Whether our names are difficult or easy, each of us will be judged based on the name we have made for ourselves and not on the name given to us. “A good name,” says one proverb, “is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver and gold” (Prov 22:21).
Beyond the name that’s been given you or the name you’ve made for yourself, the most important thing about your name is where it is written. Your name might be in the record books for most high school touchdowns; it might be on the door of your business or corporation. You might even become famous enough that people want your autograph.
But ultimately, the most important thing that can ever happen to your name is for God to write it in the Lamb’s Book of Life. For if anyone’s name is not written there, he will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15).
How can we be sure it’s written there? Hear the words of God and put them into practice.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matt 7:21-23).
That’s one name I don’t want to hear God call me: evildoer. Whoever is checking the Book of Life on the day I knock on the gates of eternity, I’d much rather hear:
“Yes, here it is, ‘John Michael Helms,’ recorded back in 1972 when you asked the Lord to save you from your sin. You’ve heard his words and put them into practice. Come in! Come in! Since you’re new here, don’t forget to put on your name tag. Jesus won’t need it, but the others here will.”
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Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie, Ga. A version of this column first appeared in The Moultrie Observer.