Before we ever come out of the womb, our parents give us a name. We take on our father’s last name just as our mother did in marriage. But we are given a specific first name and middle name. Names are what we use to identify each other. We will be identified by our names for the rest of our lives. From the time we are a child and continue to grow up, we build on our names and begin to make our own reputations; that is, we begin to be identified by our character, actions, everything that we do. This let’s everyone around us know the kind of person we are. They will be able to determine who we are by our names and by our actions.
The pressing question is: What will people think and know about me when they hear my name? When someone hears my name, will it bring to their mind pleasant thoughts of someone who is respectable? Kind? Trustworthy? Godly? Or will it bring to their mind thoughts of someone who is not pleasant to be around? Will they think of me as disrespectful? Selfish? Rude? Ungodly? This is what we need to examine of ourselves. Doing this examination will humble us and keep us where we need to be.
Now, some will say “It doesn’t matter what people think of me! I don’t care what people think of me. I won’t let anyone judge me.” This is true. When people are demeaning, self-righteous, hateful, or gossiping people, then we shouldn’t care what they say about us because we can know when something said of us is untrue. However, we cannot say that “it doesn’t matter” or “I don’t care” when it comes to people determining rightly whether our conduct is good or bad. It is not hard to determine when someone’s actions are ungodly. And we are to make note of the actions of others so that we know what kind of person they are. Consider the following passages of Scripture:
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1)
“A good name is better than precious ointment…” (Ecclesiastes 7:1)
When we talk about having a good name, we’re not talking about a popularity contest or trying to be “people pleasers” and make ourselves look good in front of people. We’re talking about living in good and righteous conduct so that when people hear my name they will know that I am trying my best to be pleasant, honest, loving, serving, godly, holy, etc. As Solomon said in the previous passages, we can have anything and everything we want for ourselves in this world, but if we have a bad reputation because of our sinful conduct then we are spiritually poor and have nothing.
Here are some examples: When you hear the name George Washington, what comes to your mind? Maybe first president. General. Great leader of our country. What about when you hear the name Benedict Arnold? He was a traitor. He committed a great crime against his country. Think of Martin Luther King. Adolf Hitler. Einstein. Osama Ben Laden. When we hear any name we know those who are known for their good works and those who are known for their evil actions.
Think of these people and what comes to your mind when you see their name: Adam and Eve. Cain. Noah. Abraham. Joseph’s brothers. David. Saul. Moses. Achan. Manasseh. Jezebel. Daniel. Peter. Judas Iscariot. Pilate. Paul. Ananias and Sapphira. Barnabas. John the Baptist. Herod. Timothy. Jesus. The list goes on and on. And every single name brings to our remembrance what these folks are known for. Both good and bad.
When people think of me, what do they know? What do they remember? How will they talk about me? When I’m dead and gone, what will my epitaph say? “Here lies a wonderful, godly man/woman. They will be greatly missed”? Or will it say, “Here lies an evil, ungodly man/woman. They will not be missed at all”? Folk’s memories of us say a lot about the kind of person we are or were. I know that I want people to think well of me now and well of me when I’m gone. I can think of many people that have died in my lifetime who had wonderful reputations and are indeed greatly missed. I want to be missed when I’m gone. Don’t you?
Now, we must remind ourselves that wanting and having this good name/reputation is not about us. It is not about our glory. We should not seek to be “seen of men” so that we will receive the praises of men (cf. Matthew 6). Our good behavior and good works are not to show off to others and draw attention to ourselves. Rather, it is about bringing honor to the only name that matters: JESUS CHRIST. It is all about Him and His name. Paul tells us that “God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the NAME that is above every name, so that at the NAME of JESUS every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
When I become a Christian, it is no longer about me. I have died with Christ and it is now Christ who lives in me. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). We are to no longer live for ourselves and our own pride (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). We are saved by the grace of God to live for Him in doing good works and living a holy life to His glory not our own. (cf. Ephesians 2:10; Matthew 5:13-16; Titus 2:11-14)
You and I need to examine our lives on a constant basis and consider our manner of life to see what example we are showing to others. People will know my name. What people think of me when they hear my name is up to me. Above all, the first and foremost person that it matters what they think is GOD. You and I will both answer to God for our conduct whether good or bad (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Our names will either be in the Book of Life or they’ll be scratched off (Revelation 20:12). Where will your name be? Where will my name be? Think about it.