Naming The Baby


Naming the Baby

In Bible times, names given to children were often chosen because of their meanings.  Sometimes these meanings even conveyed special messages from God.  Although names today may seldom be chosen because of their meanings, parents still make a significant choice when they decide what name, from among the thousands of names available, to give a child.  The name they choose often does convey a message apart from the meaning of the name itself.

Over generations, new names have been introduced and old ones have gradually fallen into disuse.  The choice of names has greatly expanded over the years as we have consulted name books and created original names.  However, choosing names for our children merits more careful consideration than is given by merely selecting those that please our passing fancy or our desire for originality.  As we choose names for our children, we should consider the following principles.

Simplicity.  Simplicity should rule all of life, including the names we give our children.  We are sometimes intrigued by the numerous and elaborate names given to children of royal birth.  Rather than pattern our children’s names after these, we should favor simple names that express appreciation for a simple lifestyle.  The names we choose should not give the impression that we are seeking to draw attention to ourselves or desire to identify with the upper classes of society.  The familiar Bible names are always suitable.

Practicality. Will most people know how to spell the name?  Will the child need to pronounce his name again and again to the embarrassment of those he meets?  Will it be difficult to determine whether the name is masculine or feminine?  The answers to these questions sometimes vary by region, but they are helpful in choosing names that will wear well throughout life.

Dignity.  A child’s given name usually remains with him for life.  A name that seems fitting for a toddler may not seem appropriate in adulthood.  Will the child be embarrassed by the name as he grows into adulthood and wish that his parents had chosen a name that has a more mature image?  Will the name seem fitting for a father as he is active in church life, or for a mother in the home?  If the name is that of a Bible character, does that Bible character remind one of faithfulness?

Connotation.  Of what does the world think when they hear the name?  Is the name popular because of a movie star or a sports hero who has recently gained fame?  Does the name give honor to a military general that the world holds in awe?  Our choices of names could give the impression that the world’s heroes of the moment are our heroes too.  If we choose these names, it should be out of appreciation for the name rather than because of an awareness of the honor the world gives to one of its own.  If names extremely popular in the world become common in the church, what does it say about us?

The names we choose for our children should be good names.  And as we choose good names, we also need to nurture our children so that, as they respond to Bible teaching and example, they by their godly character will have good names that are “rather to be chosen than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1) and “better than precious ointment” (Ecclesiastes 7:1).

Glenn E. Auker

The Eastern Mennonite Testimony, July 2007


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