Never Be Defined by Lousy Labels


Where I grew up, there was a mall, and in that mall was a Castner Knott (long since acquired by Dillard’s), and in that Castner Knott store was the boys clothing department, and in the back of that department were the jeans for the “husky” kids.

The labels on some jeans said “husky” and the labels on the others… didn’t. And guess who was husky? Yeah. Me. And stores and clothing manufacturers still use this word! This makes me want to start a social media campaign with a hashtag like “#HuskyBoysAreHumanTooYouKnow” and to cry out “Please, for the love of kittens and in the name of all that is holy, stop dehumanizing boys with the word husky!!!”

Negative labels help no one, yet so much of how we live flows out of our identity, which is rooted in the labels we see stuck to ourselves. Some come from our culture, others from our parents, and still others from that bully on the back of the school bus in the third grade. Or the local department store… I digress.

One of the subtle details of the book of Daniel in the Bible is the re-naming of the four teenagers who play leading roles in the Jewish-Babylonian drama.

  • Daniel’s name meant “God has judged,” but he was renamed Belteshazzar which means “Bel protects him.”
  • Hananiah’s name meant “Jehovah has been gracious,” but he was renamed Shadrach which contains “Marduk.”
  • Mishael’s name meant “Who is like God?,” but he was renamed Meshach which contains “Venus.”
  • Azariah’s name meant “Jehovah has helped,” but he was renamed Abednego which means “servant of Nebo.”

Four Jewish boys who were given great labels at birth were kidnapped as refugees of a destroyed homeland were renamed and re-identified as worshippers of false, pagan gods. And the very next phrase in the book of Daniel says, “But Daniel was determined not to defile himself…” (1:8)

You may well be walking around today with all kinds of labels stuck to you, but only a few of them matter, and they happen to be the ones assigned by your Creator and Redeemer. He thinks you’re pretty special. He made you to be uniquely you, to bear his image, to reflect his goodness and glory, and to belong in his forever family.

When you trust in him, you are redeemed, called, made brand new, gifted, and sent. And there’s more. A LOT more. But you have to be determined that some labels just won’t stick.