What's in a Name
by Greg Wright

Timmy, Tommy, Terri, and Tad were brothers and sisters. Timmy was nine years old and loved to play baseball. He would rather play baseball than eat, unless the family was having pizza.

Tommy was eight, and he loved playing baseball, too. But his favorite thing to do was ride his bike. He had a special BMX bike, made for doing bike tricks. When his chores were done and he wasn't playing with his brothers and sisters, you could usually find Tommy riding fast down a hill and then cruising off a bike jump, high into the air. Many times he fell down, scraped, and bruised himself, but he never complained. He loved doing bike tricks.

Terri was seven years old. She was the only girl besides her mother. Terri had a unicycle, a one-wheeled vehicle with a seat and pedals. It was a gift from her Uncle Max. Uncle Max used to ride a unicycle in county fairs. Terri could ride that unicycle up and down the driveway without falling over, even once. However, none of her brothers could ride it. They couldn't get 10 feet without falling over. Terri also loved playing baseball with her brothers, even though they would sometimes make insulting remarks. Sometimes if she threw the ball badly or missed a catch, they would say, "You throw like a girl." Then she would ask, "Would any of you like to ride my unicycle. I also ride like a girl." Then her brothers would be quiet.

Tad, the youngest, was six years old. He enjoyed playing baseball and other games with his brothers and sisters, but his favorite thing to do was to collect bugs. He liked all kinds of bugs: flying bugs, crawling bugs, biting bugs, pretty bugs, ugly bugs, and even stinging bugs.

Sometimes when his brothers were picking on him, he would threaten to put bugs in their cereal. They never believed him, until one day Tad got some black jellybeans. When they weren't looking he but some of them in his brothers' cereal. He didn't put any in Terri's cereal, since she was nicer to him. Timmy and Tommy, who thought they were bugs, complained immediately to their mother. "Mommy, Tad put bugs in my cereal!" Tad was going to be in big trouble until Terri noticed that the so-called bugs didn't have any legs. Then they all laughed.

Tad loved playing jokes on the rest of his family, almost since he began to walk. But sometimes the rest of the family didn't think his jokes were very funny. An example was the time when Tad was three. One night when his family had spaghetti for dinner, he stuck both hands in the sauce and, before anyone could stop him, made hand prints all over Terri's sheets. Terri was not pleased.

Sometimes Tad was just silly, like the time when he was four and they had strawberry short cake. Tad liked to eat. However, he thought that it would be even more fun to spray whip cream all over his hair. His parents were not happy, and he got no dessert that night.

Sometimes Tad made mistakes just by not knowing any better. Once, when their cat Rowdy got caught in a rain storm, Tad but her in the clothes dryer and turned it on. He thought it was fun watching the panicked cat going round and round. Terri was horrified when she saw this, and she told Tad to never do this again. Tad didn't realize what a bad thing he had done until the cat threw up on the floor. He was sad that he had made Rowdy sick, and he promised to never put the cat in the clothes dryer again.

Sometimes Tad had accidents. Often, he would spill his milk. One time at a church dinner, he tipped over a bowl of beets and sent red beet juice all over the church carpet. On another occasion, in the middle of a church service, he set a church record for the longest belch (buuuuuuuuuuurp). His parents blushed with embarrassment, while his brothers and sister struggled to keep from laughing.

Tad's accidents got to be a regular joke with his brothers and sisters. When Timmy spilled his milk he would say, "I did a Tad." When Terri was irritated, she would say "Oh, Taddiwack," making another word out of Tad. When the cat had an accident and urinated on the carpet, when the kids let the litter box get too full, Timmy said, "The cat did a Tad on the carpet." Everyone laughed, everyone except Tad.

At first Tad would have laughed, too. He enjoyed the attention. But now that he was almost seven, he wanted to be respected by his brothers and sisters. As it was, he didn't even think they liked him. He felt like a walking joke. One day, when he was very, very sad, he told his parents.

His father and mother called all the kids together. "Children," the father said, "sometimes we hurt each other without meaning to. We have all offended Tad by using his name carelessly. Tad's name is very important to him. We should never use his name disrespectfully."

Timmy, Tommy, and Terri were all very sad. None of them had really meant to hurt Tad's feelings. They all promised that they would stop and told Tad that they were sorry. Then they all hugged him and made sure that he knew that they really did love him.

However, they couldn't stop. They were so used to using Tad's name disrespectfully that they did it without thinking. Tad was angry. Tommy knew they would be in big trouble if Tad complained again, so he called Timmy and Terri together for a meeting.

"We need a substitute for the name, Tad," said Tommy. "I know," said Timmy, "let's use Ted." Terri and Tommy thought that was a great idea. So they agreed to replace all careless use of the Tad's name with Ted.

Tad was pleased, as well. He even started using the name Ted for his own mistakes. When he spilled his orange juice he said, "I did a Ted." When he fell down on a wet floor he said, "Oh tediwack!" His brother Tommy laughed very hard saying, "Tad did a Ted; Tad did a Ted; Tad did a Taddy-Ted."

Tad stopped laughing. Suddenly he realized that even when his brothers used Ted, they were still talking about and thinking about him. They were laughing at him. It wasn't funny anymore.


You have just heard a story about how Tad's brothers and sister misused his name. Did you know that many people misuse God's name? In fact, God's name is misused many times every day by people who say they love Him. Often, they don't realize that they are doing anything wrong.

Many people will say golly or gosh when they are surprised. They don't understand that these are words for God.

Many people will say geez when they are irritated. They don't realize that geez is another word for Jesus.

They believe, just like Tad's brothers and sisters, that if you change the name just a little bit, it no longer hurts the person who has that name. But it does hurt. Just like the careless use of Ted hurt Tad and made him angry, our use of gosh, golly, geez, and similar words offends God and makes him angry.

Hear the word of the Lord from Exodus 20:7

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name. NIV

Perhaps you realize that you have misused God's name many times. In a moment, we will all bow our heads, and I will give you a chance to ask God to forgive you. I'll pray out loud, but you can talk to God quietly.

Dear Heavenly Father,
When Jesus taught us to pray, he began with "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." The first thing Jesus taught us about praying was to respect your name. Yet, today we live in a culture when your name is misused every second, even by people who say they love you. Please forgive us for the many times we have misused your name. Please help us to overcome these sinful careless habits and to learn to show our love for you by treating your name as holy.

When is It Okay to Use God's Name?

  1. When we pray to Him.
  2. When we talk respectfully about Him.
  3. When we read our bibles.

When is it Wrong to Use God's Name?

  1. When we are angry or irritated.
  2. When we are not talking to or respectfully about God.
  3. When we tell jokes about him.

How Can We Stop Taking God's Name in Vain?

  1. Substitute an expression that would not offend God.
  2. Get out of the habit of using meaningless words.

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