What’s in a name?: On a wife taking her husband’s name

This morning I was listening to the “Ask Pastor John” podcast. I listen to several podcasts, mostly sermons, but I usually listen to this one daily because it’s only five or six minutes long and at double or triple speed on the Downcast app it’s even less, and John Piper is usually answering a very practical question from a biblical perspective. I don’t always agree with him, but it’s a good listen and I encourage you to join me.

Anyway, on today’s episode he answered the question “Must a Wife Take Her Husband’s Last Name?” He gave a very solid answer using reasons from the Bible and the culture. In short, he thinks it’s right for the wife to take her husband’s name because it’s a cultural norm based on a biblical principle (one flesh). When women don’t do it it’s usually (not always, but usually) from a perspective opposed to biblical womanhood. And (and this is no small consideration) it prevents unnecessary and unhealthy confusion for children later on.

I think Piper gives good advice, but I go a little bit further. I would never be dogmatic about this, and would never criticize anyone for not going this far, but this is what I plan on advising my own daughters to do when the time comes for them to walk the aisle:

Take your husband’s name and drop mine entirely.

My daughter’s are mine, but they won’t be forever. They’ll always be my daughters, but they won’t always be mine.  This is what the Genesis 2:23-24 says:

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of a Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

I’ve heard it said that a father’s job with his son is to prepare him to leave, and his job with his daughter is to prepare her to be taken. As much as I don’t like thinking about my little girls growing up and thinking about boys, my job is to train them up so that they will be godly wives and mothers to their own husbands and children. They will be my daughters, but they will not be mine.

We are sometimes sinful in our quest for individuality. Like the people of Babel, we want to make a name for ourselves. From my perspective as a father, I might be tempted to want my daughters to hang on to my surname in order to pay homage to, to honor, their own father (particularly) and mother.

But what I’ve decided, based on my conviction that when my daughter marries she will become one with her husband, is that she keep her given middle name and drop Privett entirely. She doesn’t need to keep my surname in order to honor me. She can do that by being the godly wife and mother I’m (hopefully) raising her to be.

Becoming completely one with her husband in name also signifies it really is ’til death do they part, no matter what. I only hope that until that day happens I’m faithful to raise my daughters to look to Christ, that they might be the wives and mothers God commands them be.

Author: Matt Privett

Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor.

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