When you’re in a position of leadership, having a good reputation and the respect of those you’re leading is essential to your success. There are three passages recently which have stood out to me even though I have read them numerous times before my recent readings. So many people chase money and power. Both are elusive and fleeting. But the things that really matter cannot be bought with money. There are three passages in the Bible which help us understand the value of having a good name: Proverbs 3.4; 22.1 and Ecclesiastes 7.1.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, 2 for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. 3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.
Do These Passages Promise Too Much?
While it is true that the wise do not always enjoy material wealth and long life, it is equally true that great riches bring great cares with them, expose men to danger, and add no real value to a man. The two things which are more valuable and which we should covet more than great riches are A) to be well spoken of: A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches; that is, we should be more careful to do that by which we may get and keep a good name than that by which we may raise and increase a investment portfolio. A fool may have great riches, but a good name makes a man easy and safe, supposes a man wise and honest, redounds to the glory of God, and gives a man a greater opportunity of doing good. By great riches we may relieve the bodily wants of others and outselves, but by a good name we escape the burdens and cares of managing great riches. B) to be well beloved and esteemed; this is better than silver and gold. Christ had neither silver nor gold, but he grew in favor with God and man, (Luke 2:52). This should teach us to not to set our hearts upon the attainment of wealth, but with all possible care to think of those things that are lovely and of good report (Phil. 4:8). (Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1003). Peabody: Hendrickson.)
However, it is not always possible for us to have a good name with everyone – especially those whose hearts are set against the Lord. In Luke 6.26 we read:
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
In this text, Jesus told His disciples that people would speak evil of them, as they had of the prophets before them. Yet we just learned that “A good name is better than fine perfume.” If a good name is to be chosen over riches (Prov. 22:1), then why did Jesus tell His disciples to rejoice when people spoke evil of them? The answer is that a good name does not necessarily mean all people will speak well of those who possess it. Many persons with good names have evil enemies. Who has a more blessed name than Jesus Himself, and yet who is cursed more? Jesus warned His disciples in the Luke passage to be wary when those who are willing to sacrifice principle for popularity speak well of you. The acclaim of crowd pleasers is disastrous, but the recognition of the righteous is blessed. (Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : a popular handbook on Bible difficulties (p. 389). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.)
When one considers all of these passages together, the thrust or trajectory of the teaching can be easily discerned: Pursue gaining a good name by pursuing the commands of God and baking into your character love and faithfulness. If God gives you material prosperity, then steward it well and with His interests at the forefront of your decisions. But even if, as a Christian Business Owner, you don’t become wealth (by American standards, anyways), then don’t sweat it. If you have a good name and have acted with love and faithfulness, you have gained more than all the riches of this world can give you.
Hear Bill’s interview on Faith Radio Mornings below: