“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” (ESV)
One of the memories from my childhood that will always stick with me is a picture that hung in the hallway of the house where I grew up. It had a picture of my dad’s dad (whom I never met), a picture of my dad, and a picture of me. Next to the pictures, in its own space, was a poem. I never knew who wrote it, and some digging on the internet has revealed more than one version attributed to more than one author. The version that hung on the wall goes like this:
You got it from your father. ‘Twas the best he had to give,
And right gladly he bestowed it–it is yours the while you live.
You may lose the watch he gave you and another you may claim,
But remember, when you’re tempted, to be careful of his name.
It was fair the day you got it and a worthy name to wear.
When he took it from his father, there was no dishonor there;
Through the years he proudly wore it, to his father he was true,
And that name was clean and spotless when he passed it on to you.
Oh, there is much he has given that he values not at all
He has watched you break your playthings in the days that you were small,
And you’ve lost the knife he gave you and you’ve scattered many a game
But you’ll never hurt your father if you’re careful of his name.
It is yours to wear forever, yours to wear the while you live,
Yours, perhaps some distant morning to another boy to give,
And you’ll smile as did your father above that baby there,
If a clean name and a good name you are giving him to wear.
There are many treasures we are given a chance to have in this life. None are more important than the name we bear. As a son and a father of sons these words ring with a deep resonance in my heart. I remember reading those words as I walked down the hallway, looking forward to passing the great name I was given–made great by the men who bore it before me–on to my own boys someday; hoping and praying that it would be great when I gave it on to them. To my delight, God has given me three boys to bear the name. And should our Lord tarry and His timing for me stretch onward, there are many days yet ahead in which I can be sure it is a name of which they can be proud.
At the same time, I recognize that my blessing in all of this is a unique one. There are many who were never given a name or who have names that bring them shame because of the way it was carried before them. For them–for you, perhaps–the words of this poem are a scratch at an old wound that is still sensitive.
Yet this need not be the case. You see, there is a name we can all bear that is vastly more previous than gold or silver or any other treasure this world has to offer. It is a name that brings honor to all those who bear it because the one who gives it is rightly crowned with ultimate glory and honor. This is the name of our heavenly Father.
No matter what name you may bear in this life, His is a name worth claiming as your own. It will forever be, not simply a mark of honor, but an invitation to life as all those who bear it well will be invited to be a part of the life that does not end. This is a life–and a name–that we can share as well. We can share it by inviting others to take part in the same Gospel we heard and from which we received it for ourselves.
More than even this, if you are a parent, this is a name you can be intentional about sharing with your own children. More than your own name, this is a name that will bring them blessing upon blessing if they bear it well. It is a name that cannot be sullied by anything in this world. This is a treasure worth claiming. It is a treasure worth sharing. Make sure you do both.