The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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      Today (February 28) is my oldest son’s birthday. Thirty-three years ago, my wife and I named him “Daniel” which means “God is my judge.” Since his birth we have called him “Dan.” Two weeks ago (Valentine’s Day) was the 30th birthday of my second-born son. We named him “Andrew” meaning “manly, strong, courageous.” We liked the name “Andrew” because the disciple bearing that name brought people to Jesus (boy with loaves and fish, Simon Peter, some Greeks). Since his birth, we have called him “Drew.”     
      During our process of considering names for Drew prior to his birth, three-year old Dan suggested that we assign the name “Thaddeus Judas” to our soon-to-be-born baby boy. Having learned the names of Jesus’ disciples from his grandmother, I suppose that Dan suggested this unique name because he felt that naming his brother after Jesus’ specially-selected followers would be appropriate.
      According to various surveys and published studies, a trend has been developing in our modern society toward parents assigning distinctive or unique names to their children. As such, the most popular names of earlier generations have registered a marked decline.     
      Reasons offered for the rise of unique names include: (1) the desire of parents to have their child stand out in a crowd and the belief that a unique name aids in the accomplishment of this goal, (2) the parental perspective that a unique name makes a child feel special, (3) the goal of parents to help their child navigate the eventual job market, and (4) belief by parents that a unique name will help their child build a social media presence.
      According to available articles on the subject, the “art” of naming is consumed with individuality and self-expression. Wherein the emphasis on a name in the Old Testament pointed to the whole of a person – everything the name represented in terms of character and reputation – naming today appears to be more concerned with a child’s future online profits. Why? Apparently because a unique name can be a boon to a child’s social media account due to the ease with which followers can locate an account that carries a unique name. In addition, parents consider names that will pass the “board room test” in terms of being well-received by future employers. The focus in name assignment, therefore, is on establishing a personal brand in order to stand out from the crowd and above the competition.     
      Reading articles regarding current naming trends and the reasons parents assign unique names to their children served to remind me that followers of Jesus Christ are distinct from the world. Our distinctiveness is presented emphatically through the fact that we bear Christ’s name [“The disciples…were called Christians at Antioch” (Acts 11:26)]…the name causing “every knee to bow…and every tongue to confess…to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11). In addition, Jesus’ disciples can be identified, recognized, and known through distinctiveness in our…
  • Calling [“Come, follow me and I will make your fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19)];
  • Compassion [“…all men (will) know that you are my disciples by your love” (John 13:35)];
  • Convictions, Courage and Commitment [Acts 4:12-13 & 19-20];
  • Character (Galatians 5:22-26);
  • Cooperation [“For we are laborers together with God” (1 Corinthians 3:9)];
  • Faith (Romans 5:1-2; Galatians 5:5-6; Ephesians 2:8, 6:16);
  • Faithfulness [“Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:31), Rom. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 4:2];
  • Focus [“Love God…Love People” (Matt. 22:37-39); “Reach and Teach” (Matt. 28:18-20)];
  • Forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13);
  • Future [“everlasting life” (John 3:16; Romans 6:23), “crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:6-8)];


      I do not maintain a social media presence or have a personal brand. Therefore, I may not be well-equipped to weigh in on the goal of parents to supply their child with a unique name for the promotion of future employment opportunities or potential online profits. I do recognize, however, that “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1). In and through the areas of uniqueness outlined above, I understand further that when devoted followers of Jesus Christ stand out from the crowd, the world will respond with amazement and “take note that they have been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).


Dear Heavenly Father, May I be a devoted disciple who lives distinctively different from the world each and every day. May others see your presence in my life and be drawn to you through me. Amen.



P.S. Dan is anticipating the birth of a son later this week. Maybe he’ll assign the child the name “Thaddeus Judas.” In Hebrew, “Thaddeus” means “valiant and wise” but also can mean “praise.” “Judas” also means “praise” or “the praised one.” Regardless of the name assigned by his parents, this child will be unique and we will “praise God from whom all blessings flow.”