I am absolutely astonished by how much effort and expense is put into the packaging and labeling of products to make them more attractive and desirable for purchase. How many times have you received a gift or package in the mail and upon opening the package, were astonished to find how small the actual item was and how much superfluous paper, plastic, and packaging surrounded the item just to give it eye appeal? It also can be frustrating trying to penetrate the plastic packaging and get to that small item without a power screwdriver!
The naming or labeling of objects is another way we try to making items more palatable or acceptable. I order the shortest (smallest) coffee in the place and they holler to the foam maker in the back – “Give me a tall!” I see a newspaper ad for an “executive office assistant” who really does all the dirty work of cleaning up after everyone and the important data entry while others simply goof off. I hear people label themselves as “conservative” or “open minded” and wonder what they actually hope to convey by that particular label.
But in a real sense, we as Christians need to be aware of the power of labeling. At Grace, we are a Bible College and I have no problem with that label because the Bible is the center of all we do here. It guides our personal decisions, our financial decisions, our class curricula, and why we do student ministries and development the way in which we do. The Scriptures speak of many labels. I think of Paul calling his friends in Philippi his “partners in the gospel” (Philippians 1:5). What a great label! Paul has another label for those evil doers who take only pride in the flesh: he calls them “dogs” (Philippians 3:2). He must have had good reason for that label. We could go on and on with Paul’s references to the Galatians, the Nicolatians, as well as others.
One of my favorite labeling stories is that of Naomi. She returns from Moab having lost her husband, Elimelech and two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. She returns to Bethlehem, her original home, along with her daughter-in-law, Ruth, who returned with her to Moab. The town is abuzz with the news of her return as a widow with a Moabite girl. They say, “Can this be Naomi?” A good question, I would think. But the simple mention of her name – Naomi (meaning pleasant) is too much for her now dreadful mood. She fires back at them – “I’m changing that name! (Ruth 1) you can’t just call me that and realize all I have been through – Ichabod!” (Name calling didn’t begin with your childhood or mine – although we did seem to perfect and refine the art in my house!)
Naomi gives herself a label – “call me Mara because God has dealt with me bitterly!” That has to hurt! She looks at life and says, I’ve gotten a bum rap and don’t want to be pleasant, but simply sulk and you all should mention that each time you call for me. That sounds like we sometimes feel, doesn’t it? We may not actually give ourselves the label, but we make sure everyone knows how victimize we are. The reality of the situation is with that attitude, others won’t be calling Naomi anything, because they won’t be calling her at all! No one likes to hear “raspberries” without a little cream topping! Let’s not label ourselves “ugly” and try to live that out! Let’s label ourselves “friendly” or “joyful” and live that out instead.
Think of a positive label for yourself today. Secretly give yourself that God-honoring label (or characteristic) and live it out for the rest of the week. Some suggestions: “encourager,” “comforter,” “Mr. Joyful,” “Ms. Helpful,” “Mr. Positive.”