Do You Have a Good Name?
Let’s start with a game. Pause for just a moment after reading each of these names. Try to remember the first thing that pops into your mind after each one.
Michael Jordan. Adolf Hitler. Mother Teresa. Albert Einstein. Barack Obama. Jesus Christ.
So, what were the first things you thought of? We associate all kinds of things with a person’s name. We think of more than just what the person looks like—we think of who that person is, what he did with his life, what he stands for.
You were given a name when you were born. Ever since, you have been giving yourself a name! When people think of your name, they think of your reputation.
What sort of reputation are you giving yourself? What do others think when they hear your name?
The Bible says quite a bit about the importance of your reputation. In this mini-study, we will see what God has to say about giving yourself a good name.
This study is intended to help you find the answers to real-life, everyday questions in your own Bible. When you see references to scriptures, look them up in your Bible, and you’ll see just how practical and helpful its wisdom can be!
What’s in a Name?
1. How important is it to make a good name for yourself? Proverbs 22:1.
The word name could be translated “reputation.” This verse reveals a fundamental principle. If you could receive a million dollars for doing something that smears your name, would you do it? That might seem like a dumb question, but in this world, people choose riches over a good name all the time. They lie in order to save a couple of dollars on a movie ticket or song download. They cheat in order to pass an exam or avoid paying taxes. They say they will do one thing, and when they have the opportunity to do something cheaper or more profitable for them, they break their word.
King Solomon wrote this proverb. From experience, observation and extreme wisdom, he understood the value of a good name. He knew that a person with a good reputation enjoys privileges and advantages that a person without one does not.
2. Which is more important: the name you are given at birth, or how you define that name over the course of your lifetime? Ecclesiastes 7:1.
3. Is it possible for your actions to bring shame to other people? Proverbs 19:26; 28:7. Can your actions actually improve the reputations of other people? Proverbs 23:24-25.
The first two verses talk about bringing shame to your parents and to your family name. The next two verses show how you can bring honor to your parents and increase the value of your family name. A good part of your family’s reputation rests on you.
Making a name for yourself by being virtuous is not a form of vanity. It is a way to bring honor not only to yourself, but to everything you represent: your family, your job, your God. If you have a relationship with God, you represent His name. Your actions can improve people’s impression of everything you are a part of.
How Can You Improve Your Name?
1. How can you improve your name and reputation? Proverbs 21:21; 11:27; 14:9.
In Webster’s Dictionary, the first definition for “honor” is “good name, or public esteem: reputation.” Someone with a poor reputation does not receive honor from people, even if he happens to hold a position of authority where people are required to obey him. The way to receive true honor is to “follow after righteousness and mercy” by keeping God’s law: “diligently seek good.”
2. How can you harm your reputation? Proverbs 12:8; 13:5.
If someone steals, he gets a reputation as a thief. If he lies or stabs others in the back, that is exactly what he becomes known for. But if he is honest, convicted and upright, day after day, month after month, he builds a strong, unshakable reputation for those virtues. Living this way leads to benefits far beyond what the liar or thief can hope for. Living by God’s laws brings benefits in the same way that living by the laws of health, biology, physics or business brings benefits.
3. Can people tell whether your actions are worthy of a good reputation? Proverbs 20:11. Can speaking about your own goodness enhance your reputation? Verse 6; 27:2.
The only way to build a solid reputation is to make sure your “doings” are pure and right. Some try to build their name by talking themselves up. But others can see through that. If you say one thing and do another, God sees your hypocrisy, and even other people will be able to see it as well. If you live a life of faith-filled action, boasting about your accomplishments will be unnecessary. They will be so numerous, so solid and so obvious that your reputation will go without saying. Focus on living virtuously, and “[l]et another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth.”
4. Is being impressed with your own deeds dangerous? Proverbs 29:23. How do you obtain a good name and honor God’s way? Same verse; Proverbs 22:4.
People might accomplish impressive things, but unless they are among the very few who submit to God and use His Holy Spirit, they are mostly concerned with themselves. This integral human selfishness and pride ultimately results in futility, shame and trouble.
People will never have true honor until they become humble in spirit. People who realize their limitations, admit their mistakes, seek instruction from God, heed correction and are concerned for others will receive honor from both God and men.
5. Will a person who does diligent work be looked up to by others and receive promotions? Verse 29. What will a lazy worker receive? Proverbs 10:5, 26.
The person who does his work well and on time will receive recognition, praise, promotion and a reputation that will serve him well over time. He will eventually be recognized by influential people in the way that Joseph and Daniel were (Genesis 39:2-6 and Daniel 1:17-21).
The Reputations of Others
1. Can gossip harm someone else’s good name? Proverbs 26:22; 16:28.
Once you know how important it is to have a good name, you can understand why God hates gossip, rumor and slander. You must keep damaging information from spreading unnecessarily, and keep other people’s good names intact.
People hurt each other through gossip casually and frequently. They think they are making themselves look better by pointing out the real or perceived faults of others. But people who gossip are actually damaging their own reputations at the same time. If you want a good name, respect everyone else’s good names as well.
2. As a young man, did David have a good reputation? 1 Samuel 16:18. Did he maintain that reputation throughout his life, finding favor with God and man? 1 Samuel 18:30; Acts 13:22; 7:46. How did King David handle people who slandered other people’s names? Psalm 101:5.
David was respected throughout his life because he strove to obey God. He was highly regarded by God Himself! And David strongly opposed anyone who harmed the name of someone else.
3. Can you actually improve your reputation by simply keeping certain things to yourself? Proverbs 17:28.
Whether it’s gossip or simply some other piece of opinion or information, think before you speak. Sometimes the best thing to do is often to not speak at all, but to listen.
4. Is having a good reputation important when you die? What happens to the name of someone who led a wicked life after he dies? Proverbs 10:7.
History is full of examples of heroes and villains. Some men and women lived extraordinary lives of hard work and selfless sacrifice. God recorded some of their good names in the Bible for all time: Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David, Esther, Jeremiah, Paul, John. The sacrifices they made over their relatively short lifetimes will be remembered forever! That’s what the Bible means when it says “the memory of the just is blessed.”
What sort of legacy will you leave behind? Strive to leave a strong, lasting, positive name that lives on even after you are gone.
The bottom line is, work hard to obey God and treat other people with kindness and respect. Follow the principles of successful relationships laid out in the Bible. Your parents gave you a name at birth, but what that name has come to mean—and what it will mean far into the future—is mostly determined by you! Make your name a good one.