Proverbs 22:1 – “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
Yesterday we learned that there are two kinds of treasure: the tangible wealth of this world and the eternal wealth of the world to come. The encouragement for Christ followers is to move our hearts from the things of value on earth to the things of value in heaven. But what are the eternal treasures that we need to incline our hearts to seek? This week we will examine some things that scripture teaches have eternal value. We begin with the treasure of a good name.
Our name is one of the few things each of us truly owns. This is pretty amazing since we don’t get to choose our names. This is the job of the parents who either birthed us or adopted us. Sometimes parents choose an old family name, ensuring that the name continues on the family tree into another generation. Sometimes our names are given to honor a close friend of our parents, or even a combination of names (my cousin was named “Bobby Sue” after my dad and mom, Bob and Susie). Other parents lean toward giving their children unique, historic, or whimsical names. This is why we know people named Axel, Atticus, River, Lincoln, and Subaru (okay, I made that last one up... but I’ll bet there is someone out there who is named after this famous car brand).
Whatever your name, it serves first on the identifying band around your ankle to make sure you don’t get mixed up with the other newborns in the hospital. Before long, it becomes the word people say out loud when they want your attention and the one you instantly respond to when you hear it. Then this name becomes your identity on school papers, personal belongings, and official documents like your driver’s license. Eventually, your name evolves into much more than an official proof of your existence; it becomes the word that describes your personality, character, and overall being. These recognizable traits sometimes result in people giving us nicknames that further describe who we are or what others think of us.
Today’s Bible verse tells us that our name, this identifying word that we carry with us everywhere, is a treasure we should choose over wealth, silver, or gold. Maybe your Bible version translates “a good name is to be chosen” as “a good name is desirable.” Either way, the Hebrew word “ba khar’” (which sounds like my last name) means to make a choice or put something to the test. So, this wisdom saying from the inspired word of God is telling us to choose to make our name good, or to keep testing it to make it better. According to this teaching, an investment in our good name is more valuable than choosing gold, silver, or wealth. A good name, your good name, is a treasure and something worth investing in today. But how? Well, it begins with a couple of questions and then a few steps of investment.
What does your name stand for?
Say your name aloud. Not too loud; people will look at you weirdly. I know, many of you are thinking, “I’m not saying my name—that’s silly.” But don’t skip this step. Maybe it will be easier if you make your name part of our verse. Read it as “(your name here)’s good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.…” As you personalize this verse, think about whether it is a good name or not. In other words, when others say your name, what do they think, and is it good? An honest (and sobering) exercise may be to ask your spouse, children, friends, and those in your small group to tell you what they think when they hear your name. If this is too intense for you, then do a self-assessment by guessing what they might say. What does you name stand for?
What do you want it to stand for?
Once you think you have reasonably and honestly answered the first question, you’re ready to proceed. What do you hope your name represents? Hope? Love? Encouragement? Success? Your company or job title? A major accomplishment? Runner? Fisherman? Teacher? Coach? Preacher? Good friend? Something else? What would you like people to think whenever your name is spoken with reference to you? Since this is a daily study of the Bible, hopefully most of us want to have our names associated with Jesus. This could be expressed in many ways, but wouldn’t it be nice if the first thing people thought of when our names were mentioned was “Christian,” “Christ follower,” “spiritual,” or even the generic “churchgoer” or “religious”?
Investment steps for a good name worth treasuring.
Whatever your name stands for and whatever you hope it to be, by the grace of God you can invest in a good name today by taking a few intentional steps. Start with this; God knows your name. Just like everyone else recognizes you by your name, so does the creator of the universe. God is intimately aware of who you are. This was dramatically displayed after our Lord had risen from the dead and simply said to his weeping disciple, “Mary.” II Timothy 2:19 says, “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: the Lord knows those who are his....” You have a good name because God knows it.
Next, surrender your name to Jesus and his Spirit. You will only be able to have a “good name” by giving faith and lordship to THE NAME. When we give our lives to Jesus by faith, his good name transforms us from lost to saved, from dead to alive, and from fearful to hopeful. If you haven’t given your life to Jesus yet, this is your first step to a good name. If you have surrendered your life to Christ, your cooperation with the Holy Spirit continues to make you into the person God knows you to be. Through spiritual disciplines (e.g., prayer, fasting, journaling, slowing, and Bible intake) the Spirit changes us to look more like Jesus so that our name represents Christ in us.
Finally, live out your eternal reality. In the end, all earthly treasure will fade, but our names will last forever in Jesus. Revelation 20 talks about where believers’ names will be written. In verses 12 &15 John tells us that those who are Christians by faith in Jesus will escape judgment because their names are written in the book of life. So, choose a good name now by choosing a life that is surrendered to the lordship of Jesus and shaped by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the end, your eternal identity will be the new name given to you by the King whose name you represented well on earth.