“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” — Proverbs 22:1

“A good name is to be chosen rather than

great riches.”

— Proverbs 22:1

(We read this verse only this morning, but it touched off quite a little discussion among us: mum & dad and the three at home aged 15, 10 and 4. — Ed.)

What is a good name? It is one’s reputation. It is the sum of your track record to date, the overall impression people have of you and your character and what you are like to deal with. A good name is something one works hard to build up. It takes years of faithful service, consistent practice in dealing honestly, always being at your best.

You get a good name when people like dealing with you because of your friendliness: you are friendly, respectful, take the time to talk with them.

You get it because of your honesty: people know they can trust you; you do what you promise, even if it ends up being totally inconvenient or uneconomical for you; you give a fair day’s work for a day’s pay; you don’t stretch lunch and tea breaks for an extra 5 minutes; you show up for work early and leave after quitting time.

You get a good name because of your compassion; you keep others informed of your progress on a project you know they’re depending on; you lift others’ loads from them, either by taking it on yourself or organising others to take it; you are always looking out for the interests of others. (You know, once the word gets out that you are genuinely interested in the welfare of others and that you will put their interests ahead of your own and actually spend your valuable time talking to them about their concerns….people will beat a path to your door.)

A good name is attached to those who are dependable: there are many players, but a lot fewer are real stayers; you will stick with a project or commitment you begin until its completion, no matter how much of a pain and hassle it turns out to be; when you say, “I’ll pray about it,” or “I’ll see what I can come up with,” people know that you will, and that you’ll be getting back to them soon. A good name comes when people know you may not be quick to take on projects or commitments, not because you don’t want to, but because you are committed to a high standard of excellence; once you sign on to a project, people will relax and be confident, knowing the job is in good hands. A good name inspires confidence in others.

A good name goes before you. As soon as others ascertain who you are, they are well disposed towards you as a person and towards everything you say. You may be offered gifts, favours, honours, opportunities to speak or positions of authority and responsibility that you haven’t sought. Although you enjoy this very much, and it is a blessing from the Lord to you and your family, you are actually a little uneasy with it all. Why? Because you know your own weaknesses, you are aware of your frailties, you are embarrassed at how far below Christ’s standards you really are. That is, you are humble. It has been a foundational part of your character all along and was the key ingredient that enabled you to gain a good name in the first place. And now, because of this humility, you realise that a good name also carries responsibility. If people are too quick to accept your suggestions or recommendations and don’t check out other options, they may follow your lead. If it turns out to be an unsuitable choice for them, not only does it disappoint them and waste their time and resources, but there is also the danger that you may get the blame – and the back-chat – for their lack of investigation and evaluation.

A good name goes before your spouse and your children. It will open doors of opportunity you would never dream of! Such offers are not only always a totally unexpected surprise, but you also find it really difficult to accept these opportunities for they seem far too generous. No wonder the Proverb says a good name is to be chosen rather than even great riches! Money cannot buy your way into people’s hearts, and this is what has taken place by way of your good name: it has endeared you to people’s affections to the extent that they are willing to open up their lives and businesses….and yes, even put their good names at risk…..by taking on your children. Who needs an A-pass Bursary when you have a good name?

A good name is something that takes many years to build up; we’re talking decades here, not a mere five or six. It is that depth of experience that people can sense when they meet you for the first time, even when your good name has not preceded you and you are a total stranger to them. A good name is therefore, almost by definition, the original preserve of middle aged and older folks. Young people can and do have a good name in a more limited sense, a good name in progress as it were, which is valuable and obviously essential for a good name later on. This is part of what older folks talk about when they say life begins at 40. You will certainly be over 40 when others begin offering your children high-paying jobs and responsible positions on the strength of your good name.

As valuable and long-lasting and hard-won as a good name is, it is also rather fragile and brittle. A large enough act of indiscretion can shatter your reputation in a moment and may even put you into a position from which your once good name will never recover. And now it becomes scary when you consider, on the one hand, the good name you have been building up and, on the other hand, your children. Younger children can do a lot of foolish things, even downright stupid, mean and ugly things, and “get away with it”… not with you as parents, I trust. You will deal with them in the strongest terms with loving godly discipline. And other people outside your family will generally cut little children plenty of slack. But somewhere along the line, your children reach an age where people do expect a lot more from them and their behaviour, when they most certainly do see your children’s behaviour as a reflection of your character….or lack of it. This is sometimes very difficult for you to see, for only the closest of friends will dare raise such issues with you as what they perceive to be chronic disrespect or dishonesty or just a perpetual case of D.R.A. in your child (DRA = dirty rotten attitude).

Here is where home education is such a blessing. Both Mum and Dad can be down on little junior like a ton of bricks whenever a DRA or actual offensive behaviour is manifested and can nip it in the bud. But it requires Mum and Dad to have both eyes opened to the many faults of their children which they as parents must discipline out. At the same time Mum and Dad must be training in to their children those qualities that are needed to build up a good name, the qualities Mum and Dad must be displaying and working on in themselves.

Your good name is actually, in fact, for your children just as much as it is for you, maybe even more so. Yet before they can inherit all its benefits, they must be trained to respect it, desire it and realise the terrible potential they have of shattering it in a moment by some wild act of indiscretion. Tell your children of the power they have, by committing unthinking actions, to inflict on you almost total destruction: the pain of a totally crushed heart; the trampling of your most cherished dreams; the ruin of your reputation within the wider community, the name you have been painstakingly building up, preserving, polishing and otherwise working on for years before they were even born. Some may object, that this is laying a guilt-trip on your children. But it is nothing more than revealing to them the facts. And the facts demand that they, for your sakes as well as for their own, be responsible. Be done with idiocy passing itself off as the wisdom of the age in sayings such as “boys will be boys”, “children must be allowed to find themselves” or “beware of harming their self-esteem”. Because you want the best for your children, because you want them to have every advantage in this life, because you want them to have a proper Biblical self image, you will train them to have the utmost respect for this most valuable of commodities that you can pass on to them: a good name, which is to be chosen rather than great riches.

From Keystone Magazine
May 2002 , Vol. VIII No. 3
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