What’s in a name?

That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet…

 Long before Shakespeare, I think Jabez understood best that our names don’t truly tell our whole story. Still, I think some of life’s irony comes in the form of finding our identity in the names we’re called…

1 Chronicles 4:9 says, Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying “Because I bore him in pain.”

 I think Jabez teaches us about conflicting identities… The way he lived vs. What people called him… And I think it was the intersection of this conflict that prompted him to pray boldly to God.

And even though verse 10 says that God granted him what he requested in his prayer, I always wondered why didn’t God change his name…?

Was the name Jabez, “causes pain,” what pushed him to be a more honorable man…? He prayed, keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain! But did he cause anyone else pain…? Or was he living defined by the past…?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I believe God didn’t change Jabez’s name because he didn’t have to. There’s more behind a name… And for Jabez I think what he was called helped him run towards who he wanted to be, and shaped him to be a more honorable man than the others in his family.

What’s in a name?

 Whether it is the names we’re called, the mistakes that call after us, the pain we endure, the heartbreak of disappointments, or the afflictions that each seem to come in this life… Why do we begin wearing these things around our necks like nametags…?

Rejection… Bitterness… Heartbreak…

 Those are some of the nametags I’ve worn… The names I’ve answered to. Maybe they were names people and circumstances in life gave me… But only because I willingly assumed them over time.

Wasn’t that God’s point when he left Jabez’s name the same…? To prove that we don’t have to be the names we’ve been called… We can define them ourselves.

Because if Jabez ever really believed he was his name, “causes pain,” could he really ever become an honorable man? Maybe God didn’t have to change his name because Jabez never really believed it was his identity anyway…

As we sit patiently… or crying out to God… for our breakthrough that hasn’t come yet, maybe the problem is we’re wearing a nametag that God never gave us in the first place…

What’s in a name?

The name is only yours if you answer to it…


And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.

 1 Chronicles 4:10