The reputation and relationships of individuals and organisations are crucial for their survival. Corruption and scandals can destroy businesses, livelihoods, and set economies back by decades in an instant. Take for example the dot-com bubble burst in 2000 and the 2008 financial crisis. What lessons have we learned having experienced two major crises in one decade? I think Proverbs 22:1 says it best: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”
Our reputation is an asset far more important than anything we can buy. The respect of others and their affection for us is an asset we should pursue with great zeal. Our character is a precious treasure that we should enhance each day by letting the Holy Spirit guide our thoughts, words and deeds.
What do people think, when they hear our name? Do they think graciousness, godliness, diligence, and faithfulness or harshness, selfishness, stubbornness, pride, moodiness, and indiscretion? Do others crave our company or do they try to avoid us?
We cannot ignore these questions as Christians. Our reputation and relationships are a great measure of our lives. Stop and examine our reputation with others. What others think of us is a far more accurate picture of our lives than what we think about ourselves, for we have an obvious bias to distort facts in our favour, and we have a deceitful heart that is deeply infatuated with ourselves (cf. Pr 16:2; 20:6; 21:2; Jer 17:9; Gal 6:3).
We should put great emphasis on our reputation and relationships. While many men chase financial and professional success with all their might, Solomon exhorted his son to value his reputation and relationships higher than these other goals. He wanted his son to grow in favour with God and men, and he ranked the importance of this achievement as more valuable than great riches (cf. Pr 3:4; I Sam 2:26; Luke 2:52).
Joseph and Daniel were highly regarded even as captives in foreign lands by their excellent spirits and blameless lives. Demetrius had a great name and reputation among the apostles and all men (III John 1:12); Timothy was highly regarded both before and after he met Paul (Acts 16:1-2; Phil 2:19-22). This high measure of a good reputation in the world is a necessary qualification for the bishops of Jesus Christ’s churches (I Tim 3:7). How do we measure up?
A good reputation before the world is possible, but some ungodly men may not appreciate our righteousness (I Thess 4:12; I Pet 2:12; Dan 6:3-5; Luke 6:26). Solomon primarily intended good and wise men, who know the heart and will of God and measure other men by godliness. Compromise or friendship with the world is a trait of sinners (Jas 4:4).
Our great goal as Christians is to grow in “loving favour” with God and men, as did Samuel and the Lord Jesus Christ (I Sam 2:26; Luke 2:52). This happens when we keep the two great commandments – love of God and love of neighbour. The “loving favour” of the proverb is how God and others treat us, which we can choose by living a consistent life of godliness and love toward them. An excellent spirit will cause others to love us.
So great are these goals – our reputation and esteem by others – they should exceed any other goal. Men work long days of hard labour for many years to get rich, but building a good name and reputation are more important. If we have a choice between a good reputation and precious ointment, which was of great value in Israel’s very dry climate and provided much personal pleasure, we should choose the good name (Eccl 7:1).
We have two names. Our first name is our personal name. How we live and treat others creates the reputation of our first name. God gave us that name at birth with a blank reputation. What have we done with it since? We have either enhanced it or damaged it. With a single word, our name, reactions and thoughts are triggered in others. What are those thoughts?
Our second name is our surname or family name. How our family lives and treats others creates its reputation. Do we promote our family name? Or are we letting it decay? Do others desire to be with our family? Or have they been offended enough to back away? Do others want to marry into our family to obtain an interest in a good name? A good surname takes consistent godliness from many different persons.
David had a great name in the Bible. His name was much set by in Israel (I Sam 16:18; 18:30). Though Saul was king with a princely son, Jonathan and the nation loved David, for he was better than any other (I Sam 18:1-16). Everyone wanted to be with David, be like David, or be married to David. He earned this by being gracious, humble, and wise at all times. God chose this man, though a sinner, as an example of a great name in Israel.
Nabal was the opposite. He was churlish – overbearing, harsh, and difficult (I Sam 25:2). His name meant fool, and even his wife said he was a fool (I Sam 25:25). He was a man of Belial – wicked and profane. The Lord let him think about dying for ten days before killing him, so David could marry his beautiful wife right after his funeral (I Sam 25:39).
Consider Joseph. Though a slave, he earned the loving favour of God and Potiphar by his exemplary conduct (Gen 39:1-6). Though charged with attempted rape, he earned the loving favour of God and the jailor (Gen 39:19-23). Though a long-term prisoner, he earned the loving favour of God and Pharaoh (Gen 41:38-45; Acts 7:10). Anyone who says their circumstances have poorly affected their name is just making excuses.
Consider Daniel. Though a captive eunuch from a strange, small country, he earned the loving favour of God and Ashpenaz, the prince of the eunuchs in Babylon (Dan 1:9). Though living a public life for many decades, his enemies could not find a single error or fault by which to accuse him to the king (Dan 6:1-5). What a role model for young men!
What can we do to build our name and reputation and win the loving favour of others? Everything we do every day contributes toward our reputation and the favour of others. No matter how small or large, the accumulated effect of our words and actions combine to give God and men an appraisal of our character and faithfulness. Therefore, it is our solemn duty and privilege to keep our heart, lips, and feet with all prudent diligence.
Graciousness is the greatest trait for a good name and the loving favour of others, for it can win the friendship of kings and cause women to be always honored (Pr 22:11; 11:16). It is the perfect combination of gentleness, kindness, humility, and cheerfulness that makes men and women charming and delightful. How gracious are we?
Men love those who help build their lives (Pr 27:9, 17; Ps 141:3). Are we a tree of life to others (Pr 11:30; 15:4)? Do they benefit by being around us (Pr 9:8; 25:12; 28:23)? Do they seek us for help? Would we help fellow prisoners like Joseph did? Or our captors like Daniel did? Or a lustful king like Esther did? Or many widows like Dorcas did?
Is our speech a healing balm, a sarcastic whip, or a foolish noise? Men love pleasant and good words that are kind, gentle, friendly, and helpful (Pr 12:18; 16:24; 18:21; 25:11). Is our speech always gracious with only a slight saltiness of rebuke to it (Col 4:6)?
Charity never fails! If we learn and apply the fifteen phrases describing true love (I Cor 13:4-7), our name will blossom as a beautiful flower. If our name is not great and our friends are few, it is evidence we have not learned true love. Charity never fails!
Just a little folly can spoil a reputation quickly (Eccl 10:1), so we must avoid even the appearance of evil (I Thess 5:22). And we must quickly make amends for offences (Matt 5:23-24). Ruling our spirit constantly is necessary to stay virtuous (Pr 16:32). Paul took extra measures to make sure he could never be accused of dishonesty (II Cor 8:21).
Our Lord Jesus grew in favour with God and men during his youth (Luke 2:52). He was most gracious in conduct and speech (Ps 45:2; Luke 4:22). Because He loved righteousness and hated wickedness, God’s loving favour blessed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows (Heb 1:9). His name is above every name by many measures. Choose to have a perfect name, even as His name is perfect in heaven and in earth.
Let us express our desire to be more like our Lord Jesus with the song “More Like You”: