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What the Bible says about Good Reputation
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 20:16

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" has very far-reaching spiritual applications. Bear means "to spread, carry, render, or give." At first glance, the commandment appears to involve only lying in a court of law, and this might be true if the words in the commandment were to be taken only at face value. Jesus clearly shows that there is a "spirit," an intent, to God's laws in addition to the letter that carries their application far beyond mere face-value judgments.

Many scriptures show that the commandment covers lying under any circumstance, including hypocrisy and self-deception. That is, it covers any wrongful word or example that would tend to injure. The ninth commandment is in a similar position in man's relationship to other men as the third commandment is in man's relationship to God. This commandment directly involves faithfulness and loyalty in our speech and in our witness for God before men.

Proverbs 22:1 says, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold." The Soncino Commentary remarks that a person's good reputation, his name, is his most valuable asset. Indeed, the Bible shows that God guards and protects His name very jealously. This is because His name represents what He is.

So it is with us. But why do so many lie, sowing the seeds for the destruction of their reputation? It is the desire for the approval of others that leads them to twist a story or to deliberately exaggerate or diminish their parts in it in the retelling.

When we hear a name, images of that person and what he or she is immediately spring to mind. What we are and how others perceive us has everything to do with what we believe and practice. So, is what we believe and practice true? If we want to have a good name (reputation) in the eyes of both God and man, we, too, have to recognize truth—wherever and whenever it arises in daily life—understand it, and submit to it. This process produces faithfulness.

This is where truth in a person's witness begins. If truth does not form the foundation of a person's life, he is already behind the eight-ball to some extent. The urge to lie must be met and overcome. At the base of this problem is a deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9) that continually lays traps to make lying an appealing course to follow. Besides lying before men, some of us keep lying to ourselves, and thus our name before God is not good. Faithlessness is the result. In order to have a good name, we, as God's children, must face up to our vanities and quit deceiving ourselves that God will just have to take us as we are.

We need to stop blaming our failures, problems, and shortcomings on others, which tendency provides us with justifications for what we are and what we do. Within the family, Mom and Dad are frequent targets of this. They are usually guilty to some extent, but God puts the pressure on us to change. Change will not occur in this way of life until we face up to the truth that we are responsible for what we are. We also bear much of the responsibility of becoming what we hope to be. Nobody can do this for us.

This is the day-to-day "stuff" on which trustworthiness and righteous reputations are formed. They are built on the witness of what we do before others. God wants our reputation before men to be built, first, on His truth and then on truth in general. Are we honestly doing this as well as we could be?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment

Ecclesiastes 7:1-4

The first concept Solomon mentions in this chapter is the importance of one's reputation, that is, having a good name (Ecclesiastes 7:1). His concern is weighted, not so much toward a person's reputation before other people, but toward his reputation before God. He does this because people often do not know how to judge the true value of character traits. A good reputation is built on faithfulness to God and His way of life.

Proverbs 22:1 confirms the value of a good reputation: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.” God's desire for faithfulness in us is seen in His many reminders to us to keep His commandments. A good continuing relationship with Him is established on trust, dependability, and responsibility in His children, who speak wisely and keep their word.

The second point Solomon touches on is that a person must prepare for his death (Ecclesiastes 7:1). That we will die is a reality. Especially during youth, we easily overlook the reality of approaching death as we focus on the present. More importantly, Ecclesiastes is written primarily for the benefit of the converted, which means we get only one chance to make the most of our calling. Thus, when we die, there is no changing our reputations from the reality of how they turned out to what they might have been. Proverbs 10:2 tells us bluntly, “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivers from death.”

The third element Solomon broaches is that we learn more from difficult times than from the times we would consider “good” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). We may not enjoy days of difficulty, but if we are seriously considering the consequences of our choices, we find that the difficult times force us to consider our ways and make corrections. “Fun,” on the other hand, influences us to remain as we are.

Solomon is not saying we should go out of our way searching for difficulty, but that difficulty is a part of every life, and we must face it if we are to be more fully developed. Proverbs 21:25 reminds us, “The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.” If an individual does not work, he does not produce, and his life is without value.

His fourth point reinforces the third by modifying the illustration (Ecclesiastes 7:3-4). He reminds us that the wise person's heart disciplines him to make profitable use of difficult times, while those in the house of fools consistently look for fun, fun, fun. The lesson: Life does not reward a person of no achievement, and achievement requires effort. The apostle Paul sharply charges us by his example in I Corinthians 9:26-27: “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Fourteen): A Summary


 




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