One of the most valuable things we can obtain is a good reputation. Call me a little crazy, but sometimes I wonder what people will say in memory of me, when I am dead and gone. Perhaps it is a good thing to keep in mind while I’m still alive and have an opportunity to make life-style adjustments.
Awhile back, I attended a funeral that had been entirely pre-orchestrated by the deceased, from the floral arrangements, to the pictorial history, right down to the obituary and eulogy. This concerned person wasn’t leaving anything to chance.
I don’t enjoy going to funerals, but I do enjoy listening to the revelations of those who knew the individual the best. Usually a person’s life is abbreviated into a few short paragraphs of humorous stories, positive attributes, and outstanding accomplishments.
Amazing, isn’t it? Decades of living condensed into a “Reader’s Digest” version. What is even more interesting is that within a few short years, we begin to remember loved ones not by paragraphs but in single sentences.
“She was a stubborn as the day is long!”
“He was the best teacher I ever had.”
“That man could make anything work.”
“I felt sorry for anyone who tried to stand in her way!”
Oddly enough even the one liners quickly evaporate into single words that capture an entire lifetime: kind or mean, generous or cheap, caring or selfish, thankful or complaining.
Reputation deserves more thought than we perhaps give it.
“Choose a good reputation over great riches;
being held in high esteem
is better than silver and gold.”
It is often the daily things, the little things, in life that blend the colours forming the full picture of our character. From front row seats, our spouse and family witness it all. They watch us navigate the highs and lows of life. They know how we respond when the kids are sick, we hit our thumb with a hammer, get cut off in traffic or stress pulls us like an elastic band to breaking point.
Solomon points out that reputation matters. How God evaluates our life, however, counts the most.
Paul advised Timothy to carefully examine the lives of people before choosing his leadership team. Positive attributes like “faithful … temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, and able to teach” started the long list. Negative qualities to be avoided included “not violent, not quarrelsome” and “not a lover of money.”
“He must also have a good reputation with outsiders,
so that he will not fall into disgrace
and into the devil’s trap.”
1 Timothy 3:7
“You can fool all the people some of the time,
and some of the people all the time,
but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.”
– Abraham Lincoln.
I must admit I have trouble with God’s viewpoint on a few biblical personalities. But then, a broad gap separates human perspective and God’s.
The church in Sardis had “a reputation of being alive,” but God called them dead. (Rev 3:1) How is that for differing viewpoints?
When a worshipper decided to break an expensive flask of perfume and dump it on Jesus head, everyone in the room turned on her in anger and screamed, “Why this waste?” Jesus saw the gesture as beautiful.
“Truly I tell you,
whereever this gospel is preached
throughout the world,
what she has done will also be told,
in memory of her.”
Did you catch that? Her act of worship would never, ever, be reduced to a single line or word. Her reputation as a lavish worshipper would be told, in full, throughout time.
God says, “Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt.” (1 Kings 4:30) Anyone who thinks he needs 1000 wives and concubines (who by the way turned him away from God) isn’t all that wise, to my way of thinking. Anybody could predict trouble in that scenario. Actually God and I agree on that one!
Too quickly, we summarize King David’s life to a single word — adultery. God expands it to
“…I have found David son of Jesse,
a man after my own heart;
he will do everything I want him to do.”
So here is my challenge. People have identified me with some surprisingly good attributes and many equally not-so-good ones. You probably have experienced the same. How do we live in a consistently honouring and godly way to develop a reputation that is above reproach with God and man?
I know it is possible.
“And the boy Samuel continued to grow
in stature and in favor with
the LORD and with people.”
1 Samuel 2:26
Jesus also “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) I don’t know about you, but I consider Jesus in a class all His own, even though he was fully man.
Solomon offeres concrete advise for us, however.
“My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.”
In one of Solomon’s smarter seasons, he recognized the connection between following not just the “commands” but also the heart of God. This reproduces a godly character that wins “favor and a good name” on earth and in heaven.
Those who diminish the bible to a long list of “dos” and “don’ts” miss the mark. The bible reveals God and His great love for people. Yet, reality exists. In our own ability, we are powerless to create good and godly reputations. We need help!
As we commit our lives to Jesus Christ and cooperate with Holy Spirit to re-form us, change happens. The Word of God is powerful to transform lives. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is redemptive, creates hope and opens our destiny to lives well lived.
We identify Peter as the “rock” who helped establish the fledgling church. Rarely do we remember him for his betrayal of Jesus. We remember Paul for being the great apostle to the Gentiles and writer of much of the New Testament, not his persecution of the church. Everyone remembers John as “the beloved”, not as a son of thunder.
By the grace of God, a reputation can change! Perhaps Paul said it best,
“But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me
was not without effect.”
1 Corinthians 15:10
I know that I have a long way to go to build that godly reputation. I also know God is improving on the original version of who I once was. If there is hope for me, honestly, there is hope for everyone.
God is an amazing Master Builder, Redeemer, Re-Creator, and Restorer. He is ready and willing to lead us into that new reputation.