Several months ago the church I serve began urging members to wear name tags. Each time we gather I’m careful to pin my name tag onto my jacket so others will be able to identify me. But I’ve been wearing that name since shortly after my birth. I’m glad to tell others that the meaning of Timothy is “honoring God”.
We don’t often consider the meaning of the names we give our children. Perhaps we should. A story carried by Reuters on November 17, 2009 tells about a company in London, England that will help parents-to-be avoid hanging undesirable monikers on their children. One example given was the name Suri, given by a celebrity couple to their newborn daughter. Would they have named her that if they had known it means “pickpocket” in Japanese, or “turned sour” in French? (For a hefty price, the company will give you the meaning of a name in 100 languages.)
To an extent we already avoid giving our children names that stir up negative images. When was the last time you heard of a girl being named Jezebel, or of a son named Judas? There are many such names that most people would never dream of calling their little ones. We also tend to avoid names that point to the opposite gender. Johnny Cash’s popular song, “A Boy Named Sue”, reminded us that such names can lead to unfortunate consequences.
In the Bible we commonly find names being given because of some quality seen in that child. Esau, the older twin born to Isaac and Rebekah, was so named because he was hairy (Genesis 25:25). God chose the names for each of the prophet Hosea’s three children, with each name saying something about the future of God’s people (Hosea 1:3-11).
Another prophet, Isaiah, spoke of a new name that God would bestow upon His people: “The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name” (Isaiah 62:2). The immediate application of that promise was to Israel. God would restore the fortunes of His people after a time of punishment. But was there another meaning, a more enduring one, behind that prophecy?
Many point to Acts 11:26 as the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “… And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” It may be, as some suggest, that “Christian” was first meant as a slur by the enemies of Christ’s followers. Nonetheless, the name certainly caught on. Years later Peter would acknowledge the nobility of this name: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:16).
I’m glad to have been given the name Timothy. But I’m far more joyful for the privilege of being called “Christian”. No one lived a more compassionate, powerful and victorious life than Jesus Christ. By wearing His name, I and millions of others have dedicated ourselves to being more like the Master. More than just wearing the name, it is incentive to rise above what we have been to become a blessing as He is.
The Preacher long ago observed that “A good name is better than precious ointment.” You’ll find no better name than that of Christ. Will you take His name as your own and become a blessing to others?
–Timothy D. Hall