Three Elements of a Good Name
Your name represents you, your life, and who you are. It speaks of the work you do and how you do it. Your name embodies your reputation.
Having a good name requires honorable motives and priorities. It also involves living with a clear conscience by taking responsibility for your actions and making restitution when you have offended someone or done something wrong.
God warns that the secret motives of a man’s heart will ultimately determine the quality and durability of his name. “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).
If your secret desires are motivated by greed, pride, or sensuality, your actions will be influenced by these motives, and you will forfeit a good name. If, however, your secret motives are to please the Lord and advance His Kingdom, your name and reputation will be preserved, even though you stumble along the way. “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief” (Proverbs 24:16).
A Clear Conscience
To have a clear conscience means taking responsibility for your actions and making things right when you have done wrong to others. The Apostle Peter challenges Christians to live “having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ” (I Peter 3:16).
A clear conscience gives inward motivation to maintain good works when your name is under attack. It is through the perseverance of good works that God is glorified and a good name is established. “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (I Peter 2:12).
Priorities reveal your values. They demonstrate what is most important to you: position, prestige, and possessions or your relationships with God, family, and others. Priorities are determined not only by how much time you spend on them, but by how difficult it would be to distract you from fulfilling them.
When a person’s priorities are out of order, he destroys the relationships that would have done the most to build and maintain a good name. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
Just as gold is tried by fire, so a good name will be tested by accusations and reactions. Names that pass these tests stand strong for generations to come. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (I Corinthians 3:13–15).
Practical Ways to Keep a Good Name
A good name is more valuable than riches, because it can’t be bought with money. It has to be earned moment by moment, day by day, decision by decision. Having a good name means living in a way that earns the trust of others. It means demonstrating integrity that people can depend on. Maintaining a good name doesn’t mean that you are perfect, but when you make mistakes, you learn from them and do what you can to make things right.
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1). Consistency in the following areas will help you maintain a good name.
Be True to Your Word
Do all you can to fulfill your promises and carry out your commitments, whatever the cost. After all, a person’s name is as good as his word.
God warns us to choose our words carefully so that we can keep the promises we make. We are to be swift to hear but slow to speak. (See James 1:19.) “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
Consider the promises you have made to God, your family, friends, and others. Have you kept your word? Ask a trusted friend to hold you accountable to fulfill your promises.
Return Borrowed Items
Lending among friends is usually done without keeping careful records of the loan. Borrowing is often prompted by the urgency or need of the moment, with full intention to repay. When the pressure eases, however, loans are often forgotten by the borrower—but not by the lender. As time passes, the risk of damage, both to the borrowed items and to the friendship, continues to increase.
Scripture reveals the bad name you earn when you fail to return what was borrowed to you: “The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again” (Psalm 37:21). Have you borrowed items that have not been returned? Do you need to reimburse anyone for items they have given you?
Maintain Just Business Practices
God sees every business transaction we make, and throughout Scripture He calls us to be honest and just. “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:35–36).
In Bible times, merchants made dishonest profits by using two sets of weights—one set for buying and another for selling. The weights for buying were heavier than the weights for selling, so the merchant received more than he paid for and delivered less than his customers purchased. In the Bible, God repeatedly rebukes this practice. “A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight” (Proverbs 11:1). (See also Proverbs 16:11, 20:10, and 20:23.)
Using a false weight or measure does not constitute a large theft. It is a small theft repeated many times. Yet God condemns and punishes corruption in the marketplace, even for a small dishonest gain. “Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights? For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. Therefore also will I make thee sick in smiting thee, in making thee desolate because of thy sins. Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied . . . . Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil” (Micah 6:11–15).
If you have cheated anyone, restore what you dishonestly gained.
Reject Gain That Comes from Another’s Loss
There is severe and lasting damage to the name of any person who profits by another’s loss. God criticizes unjust gain and warns that those who receive it are, in fact, investing in their own destruction. “And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof” (Proverbs 1:18–19).
Even if a method of earning money is legal, if it takes advantage of the poor, it violates God’s Word. “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies” (Psalm 41:1–2).
Be Punctual in Paying Bills
Businesspeople often face difficult financial circumstances. They depend on the receipts that are owed to them so that they in turn can discharge their financial responsibilities. When payment is late, the confidence and respect toward the one owing the money is damaged.
To honor those on whose businesses you depend, establish the practice of delivering full payment for services. Consider keeping a special account to hold funds in trust so that the money will not be spent on other items. “Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee” (Proverbs 3:28).
Associate with Wise and Godly People
Companionship is an important part of life, and your associates influence your judgment on many issues. Scripture instructs us: “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20). “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (I Corinthians 15:33).
A good name can be damaged by friendships, through either influence or association. Others may esteem or fail to esteem your name on the basis of the company you keep. Although we should not altogether withdraw from interacting with people whose behavior and values differ from our own, we should seek to choose wise companions to be our closest friends. Are your close friends known as wise and Godly people?
Represent Jesus Christ with Honor
Honest living is especially important for a Christian, because he represents Jesus Christ to those around him. He can rely on God’s grace to enable him to live righteously. (See II Peter 1:2–5.) Therefore, the Christian should be more concerned about upholding God’s good name than he is about upholding his own reputation.
By fearing God instead of man, a Christian will gain the confidence to stand for what is true, even if it is not popular. As he centers his life on God’s Word, he will not be swayed by the opinions and decisions of others, but rather he will hold fast to the truth. “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
“Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labor of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee” (Psalm 128:1–2).
How a Good Name Is Destroyed
A good name may come under attack at any time: accusations arise, pressures build, and crises happen. However, difficult circumstances alone cannot destroy a name. These challenges provide opportunities to demonstrate inner character qualities or reveal the lack thereof. In the end, the person who weathers the storm with integrity will sail on with a good name.
When a person does not live with integrity, he waffles into compromise, and compromise will destroy a good name. If a person who has stood for Biblical principles begins to yield to evil, he will eventually lose his good name. Compromise may begin with “little” or “soft” choices, but in time, inconsistencies reveal true character and lead to significant losses.
Temptations to compromise usually come when a person is facing extreme needs. It may appear to him that if he compromises, he will relieve the pressure. What he does not realize is that the pressure is a test of his character—if he compromises, he not only fails the test, but he also multiplies his future problems.
Beware of temptations to compromise in these and other areas:
- Dishonest billing
- Cheating on taxes
- Cooperation with evil
- Misusing funds
A person’s determination to resist compromise opens the way for God to bless him and those who are influenced by his example. “Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon the earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. . . . Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD” (Psalm 112:1–3, 6–7).