The Value of a Name

gold bars

Proverbs 22:1 “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

We put a high value on riches, silver and gold. That is the only way I can explain the great personal sacrifice people make to try to win a lottery prize worth more than a billion dollars. Odds of winning are infinitesimally small. Still, they make long trips across state lines, wait in lines for hours, and even fork over hundreds of dollars in cash for the chance to be rich. If only Christians made such sacrifices for the mission of the church, or to help their needy neighbors!

This proverb is not denying that money is a gift from God. But it assures us there are things so much more valuable. John Jeske once observed that our world resembles a store into which someone has come and switched all the price tags. The cheapest junk is valued the most, and those things which have truly lasting value are treated as though they belonged in the bargain bin. Some people even think that way about their names and reputations! During a scandal in the entertainment industry years ago, I heard a reporter quip that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Today’s celebrities test this theory over and over again. Scandal, at times, seems to be good for business even if it sullies your reputation.

But even our scandal-plagued world understands it can turn out the other way. The “Me, too” movement has cost hundreds of entertainers, businessmen, athletes, and politicians their careers and fortunes. Their own names have suddenly become a liability to them.

Of course, our names have never been worth so much, monetarily speaking, but it’s not merely money which Solomon has in mind. He says a good name is worth more than such things. Our good names, our reputations, provide us with things more precious, and more dear, than money could ever buy.

For one thing, our good name leads other people to trust us. When we are deciding whether or not to get to know people better, or whether or not to entrust some responsibility to them, their reputation, their good name, is usually our starting place. It makes a difference to us what others have to say about them.

That means that our good name is also an important part of our human relationships. For someone whose reputation has been damaged, the world can be a lonely place. You don’t want your children hanging around with children who have a reputation for trouble making. You limit how close you get to others based on their reputation and character. A good name can have a profound effect on our basic human need for love and friendship.

Let’s also not forget that the Lord himself has an interest in seeing to it his children enjoy a good reputation. If others don’t trust us, they aren’t going to listen to what we have to say. That puts up walls which keep the gospel from spreading. God doesn’t send angels to evangelize the world. He has given this task to each one of us, and a good name is a valuable tool for getting others to listen.

Whether we or others make a mess of our reputations on earth, they remain unblemished before our Father in heaven. Jesus speaks up on our behalf. He pleads that our sins and scandals don’t exist. His sacrifice has wiped our record clean. If Jesus has made such a sacrifice for us, and speaks in our defense, then the Lord must esteem our entire selves, not just our names.

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