By Irvin Himmel
A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather then silver and gold (Prov. 22:1).
We occasionally hear it said about someone, “He is out to make a name for himself.” We understand that to mean that he is seeking notoriety or fame. A big name is not necessarily a good name.
Value of Good Reputation
To have a good name is to possess a good reputation. The name which one earns for himself through righteous deeds is far more important than the name on his birth certificate.
It is said of Jesus during His youthful years, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Lk. 2:52). What a contrast that is with some of today’s youth who care not about being in good standing with either God or man!
Cornelius, the centurion, despite his being a Gentile, was “of good report among all the nation of the Jews” (Acts 10:22).
When seven men were about to be chosen to minister to the temporal needs of certain widows among the disciples in Jerusalem, it was recommended that they be men “of honest report,” or “of good reputation” (NASB).
One of the qualifications of a bishop is that “he must have a good report of them which are without” (1 Tim. 3:7). A man with a bad reputation cannot be expected to exert a good influence.
To have a truly good name is a genuine asset. One should guard his reputation against whatever might ruin it. A good past makes an excellent future reference.
Reputation and Riches
There are several reasons why a good reputation is to be chosen in preference to riches.
(1) A good name will secure what money cannot buy. Some who are loaded with wealth have a bad name, and no amount of money can purchase a good reputation for them. People trust someone who has a good name. The accumulation of wealth does not make one more trustworthy.
(2) A good name has a higher quality than material wealth. Riches may bring someone great fame, but there is a difference between great fame and a good name. A good name is “a name for good things with God and good people” (Matthew Henry).
(3) A good name enables one to do more good than riches without a good name can do. A good reputation opens doors of opportunity. Esteem and respect are worth more than silver and gold.
Abraham had a good name and great riches. God promised him, “I will bless thee, and make thy name great” (Gen. 12:2). And the Bible describes him as being “very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” (Gen. 13:2). The point of our proverb is that if one must choose between a good reputation and riches, the former should be chosen. Moffatt translates Proverbs 22:1 as follows: “Reputation is a better choice than riches; esteem is more than money.”
Reputation and Character
Reputation refers to one’s overall qualities as judged by people in general; the estimation in which one is held. Of course, men sometimes err in their estimation of other people. It seems likely that the proverb is referring to a good name as one is judged in the eyes of others who are good and righteous people.
Character refers to the sum of distinctive qualities belonging to an individual. One’s reputation is not always a true measure of his character. However, a good name that is based on good character brings goodwill and admiration from all who value goodness.
Both character and reputation are important. Every child of God must endeavor to develop the best qualities of character, and he should try to keep a good name.
Many things can destroy a good reputation. Sometimes vicious people deliberately set out on a character assassination mission. The slanderer differs from a murderer only in that he kills the reputation rather than the body. A careless and foolish act can seriously damage one’s reputation. White lies often leave black marks on a reputation. It takes a very short time to lose a good reputation but a long, long time to regain it.
“A good name is better than precious ointment. . . ” (Eccl. 7:1). If you have a good reputation, be careful to protect and defend it. And do not be guilty of saying or doing anything that would damage the good name of someone else.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 21, p. 646
November 6, 1986