From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 10 – How we can develop ‘the love of the truth’ and the character quality , and habit, of truthfulness?
It is more important to preserve our good name and reputation than to be rich or successful. However, how many of us actually believe that? It cannot be very many, or we would not behave as we do. Yet the Bible says that it is true:
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,Proverbs 22:1 (RSV)
and favour is better than silver or gold.
Note that it says that a good name is to be “chosen” rather than great riches. That is because it frequently is a choice. We may find that the opportunity arises for us to have one, or the other, but not both, and we need to choose between them. Don’t be confused by the reference to ‘great riches’. It is not only talking about the very wealthy. When it comes to wealth, all figures are relative. Therefore we all face this dilemma, however much, or little, money we may have.
It may be that for a particular man, even a few pounds would be enough ‘riches’ to entice him to choose to surrender his good name. If he does so then he is a fool, and well on the way to becoming wicked. For one thing, wealth obtained by dishonest means will not last. It will evaporate away later and will also lead us into other problems and traps:
A fortune made by a lying tongueProverbs 21:6 (NIV)
is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.
When the Bible speaks of having a ‘good name’ and of receiving ‘favour’, as we saw above, it does not only mean the opinions of other people. Their views do come into it, and they do matter, primarily in terms of whether or not you are a good witness or ambassador for Christianity. That’s the main thing that matters when it comes to what people think of you. People could choose either to believe the gospel, or to reject it, based on what they think of you. So your reputation really does matter, if only for that reason alone.
However, what the verse is really talking about is God’s view of you. The crucial question is whether He is pleased, or displeased, by your life and by the choices you make. What could matter more than that? How could any purely temporary financial gain (for a maximum of about 70 years) be worth losing your eternal life? Even if you didn’t lose that, how could it be worth losing your eternal reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
How much does having a good name matter to you? If you are a Christian then it ought to matter a lot. The people around you, at work and elsewhere, are very observant and discerning. They will notice if your life doesn’t match up to what you say you believe. If there’s a mismatch, you will have no credibility from then on in sharing the gospel with anybody. Moreover, your reputation is the key to your promotion prospects, not only at your place of work, but in every context, including your service for God. You therefore need to guard your good name and never do anything to jeopardise it.
Whenever we are tempted to dishonesty, we need to pause and think of our reputation and what the proposed lie might do to it. The people around you will notice, and remember, any lie you ever tell and they won’t allow you to forget it. That is true even where they themselves are much bigger liars than us. Their hypocrisy is irrelevant, because they are not claiming to be a Christian. If you are claiming to be one, then they will judge you by a very different standard than they apply to themselves. But that is fair enough. They have a valid point. Why should they take your faith seriously if you don’t take it seriously yourself, such that you are willing to do the same things as they do?