What’s in a Name?

green trees and mountain during sunset

The old adage is true: Time does fly by. In our wondrous youth, our lives seem as though they are not “numbered” at all (Ps 90:12). Through the years and trials, which mature us, we all begin to grapple with the reality of our brief, and often unspectacular, time on earth. The wise respond to this realization with obedience to their Creator, while the unwise might frantically pursue worldly means to seemingly maximize their existence with a notable name and legacy.

In our fame-chasing age, even godly women can be tempted to value memorability over faithfulness. The pervasive images and messages of our self-seeking culture can influence us to question God’s plan for women, which often contradicts the world’s plan for us.

As it relates to our purpose and expectations in life “under the sun,” the book of Ecclesiastes is a disillusioning yet hopeful read.1As the author, presumably Solomon, describes it. Solomon’s confronting words of truth are an astringent, soaking our many curse-incurred wounds, those caused by the thorny thickets of sin which proliferate outside of the Garden of Eden.

Unfortunately, our wounds are mortal; and our greatest wound is mortality. Still, we nonetheless ache for immortality. Ecclesiastes 3:11 alludes to this: “[God] has put eternity into man’s heart.” Our yearning, however, and our finite reality are providentially in tension with each other. As Solomon forthrightly reminds us in Ecclesiastes 1:4, “a generation goes, and a generation comes.” Alas, our journey through life under the sun is vaporously fleeting.2Brian Borgman’s commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes, Don’t Waste Your Breath, convincingly presents the oft-underestimated meaning of hebel (the Hebrew word which translates to “vanity” … Continue reading Since the Fall, mankind has known this stinging, sobering reality. For the Christian, however, though it stings, it should also clarify and purify our perspective on life under the sun.

Worldliness seeks to treat our mortality with vainglory, the etymology of which literally conveys “empty glory.” Theologian F. F. Bruce describes this term as “[personal] delusions of grandeur.”3F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians, 257 It is vainglory at the heart of our influencer-obsessed culture, which seeks to ascribe weight of influence to our very names, and largely for spiritually insubstantial reasons. Such a pursuit of lasting fame and renown is like searching for the Fountain of Youth: both mythically promise to lengthen our time under the sun. 

Take a moment to thoughtfully read this story that Solomon shares in Ecclesiastes 9:14-15:

There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard.

Despite his own poverty and inferiority, and in spite of the king’s resources and might, the man “by his wisdom” saved the city from its oppressor. Unexpectedly to us, perhaps, but in keeping with the somber theme of Ecclesiastes, the author points out that the wise man’s victory did not ensure him lasting acclaim. On the contrary, he was forgotten. But Solomon indicates that it was not merely the natural overturning of events and people in history that led to this. Rather, the man’s deeds and name were deliberately not remembered by others because he chose to rely on wisdom instead of worldly advantages for success. 

Though this heroic story might seem disenchanting on the surface, it actually offers relevant hope to Christians in a fame-chasing age to recognize that while we do not know the man’s name, we know his wisdom; his wisdom is his legacy, one that benefits those with spiritual ears to hear even millennia after his death. 

The hope-filled salve for our fateful injuries under the sun is not applied with the worldly prescription of vainglory, but rather, wisdom which will bequeath a spiritual legacy.

Christian women can profit from the championing of wisdom in this story. The Word of God tells us, “The wisest of women builds her house” (Prov 14:1). We can expect this message to be disdained and ignored by the world; consider the implications of Solomon’s emphasis that “the poor man’s wisdom [was] despised and his words [were] not heard.” Nevertheless, building a godly legacy, for the Christian woman, does largely entail building a home. Some of the ways she does this is by attentively caring for her family, selflessly extending hospitality, and through the discipleship of younger women.4Proverbs 31:10-31 and Titus 2:3-5 are invaluable passages of Scripture for women to learn about biblical womanhood from. Through wisdom, a Christian woman can surely impact generations beyond her own, though hers will inevitably “go and come.”

Although the wise man’s legacy was nameless, it was not meaningless. Scripture reassures us that an impactful legacy does not necessitate that it be an identifiable or illustrious one. Women, let us pursue a legacy that is forgettable by worldly standards. That being, one ultimately forged by wisdom:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
For by me your days are multiplied,
and years will be added to your life.

Proverbs 9:10–11
Print Friendly, PDF & Email


1 As the author, presumably Solomon, describes it.
2 Brian Borgman’s commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes, Don’t Waste Your Breath, convincingly presents the oft-underestimated meaning of hebel (the Hebrew word which translates to “vanity” throughout Ecclesiastes). With gratitude, I eagerly recommend this resource.
3 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians, 257
4 Proverbs 31:10-31 and Titus 2:3-5 are invaluable passages of Scripture for women to learn about biblical womanhood from.
Author green trees and mountain during sunset

Jillian McNeely

Jillian is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom. She and Travis have four precious children. In addition to caring for her family and home, Jillian loves to exhort other women in truth and write hymns for her local church. She has an undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies from SWBTS and is in the process of becoming ACBC certified.