A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. (Proverbs 22:1)
What’s in a name? A lot! Try these: Jesus; Martin Luther King; Adolf Hitler; Justin Beiber; What do you think of when you hear those names? There is an instant thought, assumption, pre-conceived judgment about each name you hear. Two years ago, the name Ravi Zacharias was associated with one of the greatest Christian apologists that ever lived. Today, his name is synonymous with moral failure and deceit.
I grew up with a very common last name “Stanley”, and one of the most popular first names for boys “Michael”. People rarely called me Michael; that was reserved for my mom and dad. My friends called me “stan”, “stanley”, “schtanz” etc. Of course, I heard all the time, “Stanley the tool”, and grew up telling people how to spell my last name, “S.T.A.N.L.E.Y. Like The Cup!”. Tools and trophies. That was what my last name meant to most people. No one ever thought of the New York Yankees baseball player, popular during the 80”s and 90’s, or the Michael Stanley Band that had several Top 40 hits in the 80’s. Now, my wife bears that name also, but it doesn’t’ have the same effect as it did on me, because most people know her by her first name, “Ruth” and if we meet anyone from her past, she qualifies her identity with her maiden name. And then they remember her. Last names are powerful and instantly invoke a response: Ford, Gates, Bezos, Presley….
What do people think of when they hear your name? That will depend on two things: your character and your function (influence, job, family connections, etc.). Does your last name evoke good or evil, praise or loathing? Although we don’t live for the approval of people, when you interact with them, life is much easier if they think well of you. Before Jesus, my name was associated with a certain level of respect. Once I came to be identified with Jesus, people’s opinions of me changed. Identifying with the name of Jesus changes everything. But that is a topic for a different day.
When I read through Proverbs 22, I see lots of things that can be associated with a last name. Is that Judgment? You be the judge! Here are some of them:
Wealth or poverty (vs.2, 7, 16, 22)
Level of prudence: self-disciple, wisdom, good judgment (vs. 3)
Humility or pride (vs. 4)
Generosity (vs. 9)
Mocking versus gracious speech (vs. 10 & 11)
Laziness (vs. 13)
Immorality (vs. 14)
Children (vs. 6 & 15) – let’s be honest, when we hear a last name we sometimes think of their unruly or super-obedient children
Anger (vs. 24-25) – remember being told to stay away from Mr. or Mrs. So&So, cause they were angry old cranks
Skilled & successful (vs. 29)
There is a section in Proverbs 22 that starts in verse 17. It begins a series of “sayings” that seems to be different from the list of proverbs we’ve been used to. The first saying (verses 17-21) describes people who are wise, who speak instruction. They are those whose trust is in the Lord, and are filled with counsel and knowledge. They are the ones who know the truth, and are able to impart it – Godly, wise people. What name comes to mind when you hear a description like this? Can we apply this description to ourselves?
Friends, I don’t know about you, but when people hear or think of my name, I want them to use words like are used in Proverbs 22:17-21. Why? Because “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” The key to being known as that type of person is to be in God’s word regularly. Let it be the foundation of your life. And maintain a deep, intimate relationship with Holy Spirit. Let Him be Lord of everything you do and say. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail, press on to become more like Jesus. That's a great name to be associated with!
Have a blessed week!