The Importance of A Name

In 1977, fish merchant Lee Lantz traveled to Chile and “discovered” the toothfish, a species the locals deemed too oily to eat. Thirty years and a name change later, Chilean sea bass is so popular with American palates that it’s nearly on the verge of extinction.

After Canadians developed an oil from the rapeseed plant, they still had to deal with the name. So, in 1988, the FDA approved a name change to canola oil, and sales shot up.

When the California prune board realized the words “prune” and “laxative” were inextricably linked, they switched to “dried plums” in 2000. People bought it, and in a documented focus group, preferred the taste of dried plums to prunes.

In the 1960s, Frieda Caplan, an American produce importer, changed the name of the Chinese gooseberry to the kiwi fruit, after New Zealand’s national bird, which is also round, brown, and furry. Popularity spiked.

Even though the bony fish known as the dolphin fish was unrelated to the mammal of the same name, diners still balked at ordering it. So, in the mid-1980s, restaurants starting using its Hawaiian name, mahi-mahi, and all thoughts of Flipper were forgotten.

A name is very important!  Imagine if any of the items mentioned above simply had no name!  No name, nothing.  The industry executives that made the decisions to change the names of the different items listed above knew the importance of names.

How much more important is a name to a child?  According to missionary Keith Knapp, some of the children brought to the Master’s Home of Champions Orphanage in Liberia, weren’t even given something as simple and precious as a name. Apparently, their parents deemed them unworthy to name. You see, these children were born deaf.

I assumed they weren’t given a name because being deaf they couldn’t hear or speak.  The real reason however was even more even more devastating.  The parents viewed them as worthless, of no value, thus no name was given to them. How heartbreaking!  To think anyone would be considered worthless, having no value, and thrown away as something unworthy of something as simple as a name.

Even though the parents of these precious children in Liberia do not consider them worthy of a name, God has a special name for each one of them (and for us).  We are all precious in His sight – “red, yellow, black, and white.”  Each person is of infinite value to God.  Therefore, He has given us a new name in His Son, through whom we are being remade into the likeness of His own Son.

I’m so glad we have a God who sees us as being worthy; worthy of His love and grace.  Not only does He know us by name, Jesus said God “numbers” every hair on our head! (Matt. 10:30)  And, as the “Good Shepherd” of John 10, Jesus calls us “by name.”  Our names are so important to Him that He writes each one down in the “Book of Life” (Rev. 5:3), and He confesses our name before the Father.

Our names are important to God!  Not only does He know our name, He loves us so much He sent His only Son to die on a cross for us.  He also calls us by our name, and invites us to confess our sins, and commit our lives to follow His Son, “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6).

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About Larry Doyle

Larry is the Director of Missions for the Piedmont Baptist Association. He has served overseas with the International Mission Board (SBC), in Charlotte NC as the Director of International Ministries, and as a pastor in North Carolina and Kentucky. He is married to Rebekah Hill, a native of Greensboro NC, and has two children and three grandchildren.
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