All of us are out to make a name for ourselves.
We are interested in building a certain image of ourselves. We care what others think of us.
This is generally true of people. We are name conscious.
President Ford is interested in being known as the healer of a troubled nation. Having gone through the trauma of Watergate, having taken over an office that had become defamed by the actions of an irresponsible man, our President wants to restore dignity to the office, and confidence in the people. The nation needs healing and he wants to be the healer.
“Squeeky” Fromme wants to make a name for herself. She wants to be known as the protector of redwood trees. She took the idiotic route of pointing a gun at our president to get such attention. Now she has a different kind of a name.
Sports heroes want to be known as the greatest in their respective fields—Hank Aaron, Jimmy Connors, Mohammed Ali. They go to great lengths breaking records, winning games, all for the purpose of a name!
Even Fanny Foxe, ever since she took her dip in the tidal basin in Washington, wants a name. And it isn’t a very good one at that.
WHAT KIND OF NAME
As a young person adds years to his life, he becomes more conscious of his own name. There is quite a difference between the timid freshman and the confident senior in high school. The persistent drive of a teen-ager is to conform. One’s peers practically dominate his personality. They talk alike, dress alike, laugh alike, eat alike, think alike, dream alike. For a while teens act like so many robots manipulated by some strange psychological force—”everyone does it”.
Soon one comes to himself. He realizes how silly it is to act that way, to be completely dominated by others without really being one’s self. He begins to think of himself as an individual person. He asks himself how his teachers view him, what others think of him. We’re concerned what aspect of our personality is coming through loud and clear.
There are all kinds of possibilities:
Mr. Tough Guy
Mr. Poker Face
It all boils down to one of two possibilities: either we have a good name or a bad name.
Paul wrote to the church of Galatia and described the bad name this way, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you before as I have also told you in the past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” Galatians 5:19-21.
In the same context he described the good name, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit,”Galatians 5:22-25.
I ask you, what name are you after?
A GOOD NAME
The Holy Spirit instructs us through Solomon, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches,” Prov. 22:1.
Are you concerned about a good reputation? Do you want your teachers, your parents, your fellow students, your friends to consider you to be the right kind of person?
Obviously, good has to be explained. It makes a great deal of difference from what perspective we speak of good. To the street gang in New York City, a good guy is one who will flash the switch blade at the command of the leader, will rape a woman to show his contempt, will shoot off his lip to anyone in authority. Such a fellow is “in” with the gang. He’s the kind they want.
Here we speak of good in the only real sense one can speak of it. There is no good apart from God. He is the source of good, the standard of good, and the ultimate determiner of all good. What God says is good is really good, what God calls evil is really evil. The texts we quoted from Galatians 5 demonstrate this.
One who walks in a way that God calls good possesses a good name. His reputation will be that he obeys the command of God and seeks to do His will.
Such a name is to be “chosen,” according to Prov. 22:1. No one possesses such a name naturally or inherently. By nature we have a bad name. Rather, we have to choose it.
This involves two things. We first of all must value it greatly so that we desire to have such a name. We must consider it a real treasure, a wonder of grace, a gem of sanctification. We look at such a name with amazement and thankful contemplation. Secondly, we cultivate such a name. A good reputation does not fall from the sky, but comes through daily prayerful effort, through hard work, through tears of repentance, through reading the Word of God, through testing the spirits, through putting into practice what one believes to be right, and not being afraid of the consequence. The crucifixion of the flesh and the living in the Spirit is a wonder of grace. It means overcoming a “bad name” and replacing it with a “good name.”
Such a name will be considered good, not by the world at large, for they will scoff. However, God will consider it good and your fellow believers will rejoice in it. Such a name is attractive to the good.
WHY A GOOD NAME
We must be careful here. We could easily desire a good name with an evil motive. This would be bad news. Conceivably within the sphere of the covenant, someone might work hard at a good name much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They did it to be seen of men. It might be a personal ego trip for someone to boast how good he is. This would be terrible. The big “I” would come through loud and clear, and that is displeasing to God. Christ called these kinds of people white-washed sepulchers, beautiful on the outside, but tilled with dead men’s bones on the inside.
To look at it a bit differently, one might also avoid getting into trouble, and thereby save his name, because he is afraid of what people might think. In other words, because he knows that his reputation is at stake, he might work hard to “keep his nose clean.” He doesn’t want people to think bad things of him, so he avoids wrong. This makes him a hypocrite. The final test of hypocrisy is his private life. If he is motivated to do good publicly, but privately he acts differently, then he is indeed a hypocrite. Such a person avoids going to the theatre because “people might see him,” but doesn’t blink an eye to watch the same movie on television in the privacy of his own home. Such a person wouldn’t check out a bad book at the public library, but would buy a cheap paperback and read it on the sly. He doesn’t buy the 8-track tape of the latest hits—then he would have to admit he listens—he just tunes in on the radio. If he does things just to be or not to be seen of men, it is wrong.
It is important to seek a good name for the sake of others!
If we who claim to be Christians and to be born of the Spirit walk openly and repeatedly in sin without repentance, that act may very well give occasion to other young people to sin. You have heard of giving offense, of making oneself a stumbling block. Christian young people have to be doubly careful that carelessness does not cause some other struggling child of God to abandon the struggle. This is serious. We have to care about each other, to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. If we go to church, attend a Christian school, are raised in a Christian home, and publicly and openly flaunt the warnings of those who care about us, we will cause all those who are spiritually weak to become more bold in walking in sin. It never fails. Sad as it may be, the weak within the covenant look to those who claim covenant promises, but who are careless, and follow them. It comes in the well known phrase, “Well, so-and-so does it”. Ask yourselves: why is it that the brash, the bold, the daring become the popular ones within the sphere of the covenant? Must that not sound a warning to us? We are responsible not only for our own faults, but also when we lead others into fault. If we choose a bad name, we hurt not only ourselves, but others as well.
The opposite is true when we choose a good name.
God gives us the Holy Spirit, renews our hearts, and thereby influences our lives so that we may demonstrate every day the mighty power and glory of God Himself. A good name testifies to God that He is faithful and good. It is proof that God is able to save His people from their sins. When the people of God walk in Jehovah’s fear, they show in all their lives that grace is greater than the power of sin. This is the deepest reason why we desire to have a good name. God’s glory radiates from such a life.
In addition to this, by doing good we are able to advance the cause of God’s kingdom. This doesn’t mean that we have to be missionaries to bring God’s Word to others in remote areas. This may indeed be the calling of some who are missionaries. For young people, it means more than anything that they live out their life of faith in the place God has given them. Choose a good name as a student and you will advance God’s kingdom in the area of your school work. Be obedient to your parents and this will contribute to Christ’s kingdom. Study your catechism faithfully and this is fulfilling your God-given calling. Be kind to others around you, avoid harsh and unfair criticism, don’t wag your tongue but be helpful, think about your aged grandparents and demonstrate kindness to them, contribute to your society life in church. These are things that cause one to have a good name. By doing these things we make God’s cause to triumph and contribute to its welfare in the world.
A good name will also make you to be a good example to others. Rather than giving occasion to others to fall into sin, you will give occasion to others to imitate. Sometimes young people overlook the potential of this. So often we can reason concerning something worthwhile: no one does that; consequently I won’t either; and so no one ever does. Try breaking that trend sometime. Do something worthwhile that no one else seems to do and see if others might not begin doing it. It works both ways. We can be a powerful influence to one another by being a right example.
It is all part of choosing a good name.
A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.
Who doesn’t want to be rich?
Is a good name of greater value to you?