A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.
Your reputation is an asset far more important than anything you can buy. The respect of others and their affection for you is an asset you should pursue with great zeal. Your character is a precious treasure that you should enhance each day by wise choices.
What do people think, when they hear your name? Do they think graciousness, godliness, diligence, and faithfulness? Is your name sweet to their ears and thoughts? How do they speak of you to others? Are you often praised in your absence? Do others crave your company? Do they want to honor you with affection, gifts, and service?
Or is your name a bitter thought? Do they think harshness, selfishness, stubbornness, pride, moodiness, or indiscretion? Do they try to avoid you? Do they avoid you? When others talk about you, do they have to make excuses for your conduct? Do they pass over you for invitations or assignments, because you are more irritating than pleasing?
You cannot ignore these questions and be wise. Your reputation and relationships are a great measure of your life. Stop and examine your reputation with others. What others think of you is a far more accurate picture of your life than what you think about yourself, for you have an obvious bias to distort facts in your favor, and you have a deceitful heart that is deeply infatuated with yourself (Pr 16:2; 20:6; 21:2; Jer 17:9; Gal 6:3).
Some people are used as well known examples of specific virtues or all virtues. Others are used as examples of poor character and problems. How is your name used? Are you spoken about affectionately and respectfully, or critically and negatively? Many have no outstanding virtues at all, so they pass through life without any honor or favor, which shows a lack of diligence and priority in pursuing godliness and virtue.
What is a good name? It is not your parents’ choice of a distinguished combination of syllables that sounds sophisticated, classy, or pleasant. It is not merely being named after a respected ancestor. Your bare name has no value at all. Solomon used “good name” as a metonym for a good reputation. He exhorted his son to emphasize having a good reputation with God and good men as one of the chief goals of life (Pr 3:4).
What is loving favour here? It is not giving love and favour to others, but rather receiving love and favour from others. It is obtaining affection and respect from other virtuous persons. It is obtaining their acceptance and approval of your life. Of course, reaching such a position requires you to carefully rule your conduct to please others. It requires consistent righteous behavior to hold the esteem and trust of others (Eccl 10:1).
The proverb has an ellipsis, which is missing words that shorten the sentence and give it boldness. The second clause may be read, “And loving favour is to be chosen rather than silver and gold.” These words taken from the first clause are important to fill out the whole sense of the proverb. A comparison and choice is being taught in both clauses.
In each case it is your choice. You can choose a good reputation and the loving approval of others. It is your choice. Both should be a priority. Both are more important than other measures of success. Circumstances or discrimination are excuses for foolish or lazy men who have not properly pursued these important goals. A wise man will pursue both.
What is the lesson? You should put great emphasis on your 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 favor with God and men, and he ranked the importance of this achievement as more valuable than great riches (Pr 3:4; I Sam 2:26; Luke 2:52).
How do you measure by Solomon’s lesson? How important is your reputation to you? Is it more important than any amount of money or success? Do you work harder to improve your name than to get ahead financially? How much do you value the esteem and respect of good men? Do you regularly examine your conduct to be without offence? Do you go out of your way to make sure each thing you do is done very well for all concerned?
God measures you by what others think. You cannot please God and offend good men at the same time. It is impossible. If you are pleasing God and keeping His commandments, you will please others (I Sam 18:14-16; I John 5:2). And your family and close friends do not count, for it is your reputation before good men that is the key. You can easily tell a person’s character by the number and kind of friends he has. These facts do not lie.
Of course, others’ opinions are not your only measure, or the most important (John 5:44). But they are a measure. You foolishly deceive yourself to approve your life and conduct, if good men and women have a low regard of you. 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 of 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 you measure up?
A good reputation before the world is possible, but some ungodly men will not appreciate your 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).
Your opinion of yourself is quite worthless. It is usually contrary to fact. People with good reputations generally think poorly of themselves, which keeps them humble and sensitive to others; but those with bad reputations think themselves quite desirable, leading to offensive arrogance. The difference between humble modesty and self-righteousness is a large part of a good name, which is built on low self-esteem.
Your great goal is to grow in “loving favour” with God and men, as did Samuel and the Lord Jesus Christ (3:4; I Sam 2:26; Luke 2:52). This happens when you keep the two great commandments – love of God and love of neighbor. The “loving favour” of the proverb is how God and others treat you, which you can choose by living a consistent life of godliness and love toward them. An excellent spirit will cause others to love you.
So great are these goals – your reputation and esteem by others – they should exceed any other goal. Men work long days of hard labor for many years to get rich, but building a good name and reputation are more important. If you had 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, you should choose the good name (Eccl 7:1).
Consider your funeral (Pr 10:7). The memory of just men is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rot. How will you be remembered? How long will you be remembered? Will your memory bring pleasant thoughts to hearts? Or will most cringe and be relieved? The number of persons, and their character, and their reaction at a funeral say a great deal.
You have two names. Your first name is your personal name, a unique identifier among the billions on earth. How you live and treat others creates the reputation of your first name. God gave you that name at birth with a blank reputation. What have you done with it since? You have either enhanced it or damaged it. With a single word, your name, reactions and thoughts are triggered in others. What are those thoughts?
Your second name is your surname or family name. How your family lives and treats others creates its reputation. Do you promote your family name? Or are you letting it decay? Do others desire to be with your family? Or have they been offended enough to back away? Do others want to marry into your 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.
Blessings at Solomon’s coronation included having a name greater than his father David’s name, which was easily the greatest in Israel (I Kings 1:47). Even God compared all later kings to David, and he was described as a man after God’s own heart. What a goal! How do you measure up, reader? Good fathers will want their sons to exceed them in reputation and loving favour, for they will know the many mistakes they have made.
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 or past 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 you do to build your name and reputation and win the loving favour of others?
Everything you do every day contributes toward your reputation and the favour of others. No matter how small or large, the accumulated effect of your words and actions combine to give God and men an appraisal of your character and faithfulness. Therefore, it is your solemn duty and privilege to keep your 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 you?
Men love those who help build their lives (Pr 27:9,17; Ps 141:3). Are you a tree of life to others (Pr 11:30; 15:4)? Do they benefit by being around you (Pr 9:8; 25:12; 28:23)? Do they seek you for help? Would you help fellow prisoners like Joseph did? Or your captors like Daniel did? Or a lustful king like Esther did? Or many widows like Dorcas did?
Is your 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 your speech always gracious with only a slight saltiness of rebuke to it (Col 4:6)?
Charity never fails! If you learn and apply the fifteen phrases describing true love (I Cor 13:4-7), your name will blossom as a beautiful flower. If your name is not great and your friends are few, it is evidence you have not learned true love. Charity never fails!
Just a little folly can spoil a reputation quickly (Eccl 10:1), so you must avoid even the appearance of evil (I Thess 5:22). And you must quickly make amends for offences (Matt 5:23-24). Ruling your 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).
Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest men and well received most anywhere, knows the wisdom of this proverb. He teaches others, “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently.”
John D. Rockefeller, one of the wealthiest men in human history, said, “The most important thing for a young man is to establish a credit – a reputation, character.” He also said, “Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.” This latter idea agrees well with Paul (Ro 12:17; II Cor 8:21).
If you are young, you have an advantage. Your reputation is still being formed, and you should apply yourself with all diligence to make it the very best before God and men. If you are young, you have not made as many mistakes as older persons, meaning you have less to live down. Choose today to make this proverb a high goal and live according to it.
Have you blown your reputation already? Do you think it is too late? It is never too late, if you will repent before God, confess your sins to him, confess your faults to others, and make amends or restitution for any wrongs you have done. David recovered his reputation after terrible sins, and so did Zacchaeus and Peter (Luke 19:1-9; Gal 2:9).
Your name and reputation are daily choices, and you should choose to build them and preserve them more than any other project or goal. You can change your name and reputation, so consider it a blessed privilege, duty, and a high priority for your life. Rather than emphasizing exercise, diet, and sleep to build your body, which has little value to God or men, exercise yourself unto godliness and loving others (I Tim 4:7).
Husband, do you love your wife enough to help build her name and loving favour with others? Parent, do you understand the importance of this proverb as a goal for your children? Diligent efforts should be made every day to make sure your family name and that of each family member is clear of offence. What a wonderful family objective!
If you have taken the name of Jesus Christ as a Christian, it is important that your name and reputation give honor to your religion and its Leader (II Tim 2:19). Be like those of Pentecost, who grew in favor with all the people (Acts 2:47; Phil 2:14-16). Let your life adorn the doctrine of God with glory and beauty (Titus 2:5,8,10). Be like those nameless brethren endorsed by Paul as “the glory of Christ” (II Cor 8:23).
Jesus of Nazareth 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.