What’s In A Nickname?


My real name is Anthony but my whole life people have called me Tony. No worries, though. I like Tony. In fact, if you call me Anthony, my first instinct is to think (a) I’m in trouble or (b) you don’t know me that well. Three of my brothers also had nicknames when we were growing up. Our friends called Joseph “Joey,” James “Jimmy,” and Adam “Gus.” Even my Mom and Dad are known by their nicknames. James is “Jim” and Kathleen is “Kathy.”

Did you know there are nicknames in the Bible, too? In Genesis Ch. 25, Esau was nicknamed “Edom” (“Red”) because he asked his brother for a bite of his delectable red stew. In John 11 we learn the disciple Thomas wore the nickname “Twin,” although we do not know for certain whose twin he was. In Acts Ch.4, in the hallway conversations of First Baptist Church Downtown Jerusalem, Joseph’s friends called him “Barnabas:”

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas (which is translated Son of Encouragement)…” Acts 4:36, CSB

I don’t know about you, but if there are nicknames going around behind the scenes in the church today, I want to have Joseph’s nickname. I want to be a Son of Encouragement. Encouragement is a choice. A choice that requires empathy, humility, and lots of grace. Encouragement is both planned and spontaneous. It is committed to Ephesians 4:29 when Proverbs 16:27-28 is all around.

What if nicknames were going around in your church? What would your nickname be? Son of Complaining… Daughter of Gossip? Son of Negativism… Daughter of Hypocrisy? The woman who knows everything… The man who will oppose anything?

The church today has got plenty of Sons of Detriment, Sons of Bewitchment, Sons of Judgment, and Sons of Resentment. They’re all a dime a dozen. But we desperately need more Sons of Nourishment, Sons of Commitment, Sons of Fulfillment and Sons of Encouragement. All roses among thorns.

I didn’t know Joseph the Levite personally, but this little nickname in Acts 4:36 tells me so much about him. Barnabas is long dead and gone, but his name is forever recorded in his church’s history book. How about you? You also have a limited number of days to circumvent the sun. How do you want to be remembered when you’re gone? How would you want your name recorded in your church’s history book?

I know we don’t get to choose our own nicknames. Ultimately, people will say whatever they want about us. But if my actions and character have any legitimate bearing on the selection of a nickname, I want to be a Barnabas. I want to be a Son of Encouragement.

Grace and Peace,


  One thought on “What’s In A Nickname?

  1. Beth Wilder
    June 4, 2018 at 12:45 PM

    Thank you for this blog, Tony. If you are anything like your parents, you already have Joseph’s nickname. Great article. Beth Wilder

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