1 (ESV) – A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold.
In a culture that measures worth and importance and value and influence in terms of how much money one has, living a transformed life, not conformed to the world, is a difficult task. And make no mistake. What our culture values is money. It worships money. Greed, said the Apostle Paul, is idolatry and that just about sums it up for the society in which we live. Those who work to ensure that all people are paid equally for work of equal value are involved in a very good thing. The temptation to which many have succumbed, however, is that the one’s value is determined by the pay. If a person is not paid the equal amount for work of equal value the argument is made that the person should get it because he/she is just as valuable as the person earning more. And it may indeed be that the reason they are not being paid equitably is because the employer sees them as not as valuable. This is just one example of the twistedness of our culture and what the love of money has done to us.
But what if a person had the reputation of being a loving individual who cared for people, sacrificed for the good of others, didn’t strive after recognition and found happiness in knowing that he had genuinely been of some good in the world? Such a man would be revered, respected, popular and even envied. But he would not likely be emulated.
The Proverb before us says that given the choice between money and a good reputation, we should always choose the reputation. This is counter-cultural. Not that there are no people who do not chase after such things. But it is not the default position of our society. The general understanding is that if we cannot have both a good name and riches, then we will take the riches, thank you very much. Who cares whether people respect us if we have millions of dollars to make us happy? And since the culture places so much importance to money, having more of it would garner the good name regardless. So let’s chase after the dough. The respect we want can be bought.
The solution to this is the upward look. The first place we want to have a good name is with God himself. “We make it our goal”, Paul said “to please Him”, and that is to be our goal as well. If we know that God is pleased then the good name in other places will follow. It will not win everyone to respect us. But when the sovereign ruler of all things is pleased with us, the fact that others may not be really pales into insignificance. It is a wonderful thing to travel through life knowing that God is pleased. It is an act of grace and we should pray that it permeate all our being. It is to be desired more than riches.