A Good Name Is Something Precious
“HE THAT filches from me my good name, robs me of that, which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.” Thus speaks one of the characters in Shakespeare’s famous play, Othello, the Moor of Venice.
As has well been noted, one’s name might be likened to one’s face—it is that by which one is known. But what makes a name good or bad? It is the person who wears that name. He gives it whatever quality it has by what he is, the life he leads, the things for which he stands. A good name, that is, a good reputation, is therefore something precious indeed. To lose a good name is truly to be made poor.
Recognizing the value of a good name, worldly governments have enacted laws to protect one’s name or reputation from malicious slander (oral defamation) and libel (written defamation). In so doing these governments are but following the pattern set by the Bible in the ninth of the Ten Commandments, which stated: “You shall not give false evidence against your neighbour.” Under that law, those who did, were punished with the same punishment they had intended to bring upon another by their false testimony.—Ex. 20:16; Deut. 19:16-21, New English Bible.
Yes, the Bible shows that we should rightly be concerned about having and keeping a good name. In it we read that “a good name is more to be desired than great riches.” “A good name smells sweeter than the finest ointment.” The importance of a good name within the Christian congregation is made clear by the Bible’s requirement that overseers must have “a good reputation with the non-Christian public.”—Prov. 22:1; Eccl. 7:1; 1 Tim. 3:7, NEB.
Jehovah God himself has set us an excellent example in being concerned about having a good name. First of all, he has given himself a very distinctive name, Jehovah or Yahweh, meaning “He Causes to Become.” That name at once testifies to his Creatorship and that he is a God of purpose, One who carries out his will and fulfills his promises without fail. He considered this name so important that he caused it to appear in the Hebrew Scriptures 6,961 times. In fact, by that name he is identified more than by all other terms put together—terms such as Lord, God, Most High, and so forth. The name Jehovah he associates with his great works and deliverances, as when freeing the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.—2 Sam. 7:23.
Perhaps the earliest allusion to the importance of God’s reputation or name is that made by Abraham in connection with the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham questioned the justice of destroying the righteous with the wicked, asking, “Is the Judge of all the earth not going to do what is right?” The reputation of God was involved, that is, his name as a just God and Judge. Jehovah God agreed to spare those wicked cities if but ten righteous persons were found in them. But there were not ten, only Lot’s family.—Gen. 18:24, 25; 19:15-29.
Jehovah spared his people Israel in the wilderness when they deserved to die, because of his name. And so in the centuries to follow, repeatedly we read of Jehovah’s servants as pleading that He hear and answer their petitions because his name was involved, because his reputation was at stake.—Num. 14:13-19; Josh. 7:7-9; Isa. 37:14-20; Ezek. 36:16-23.
ACQUIRING A GOOD NAME
Since it is so desirable, how can we acquire a good name? By seeking to please men, by trying to be popular? No, but by doing what is right, by living in the fear of Jehovah God. Thus there was Job, who the Bible record shows had a fine name with God. Why? Because he was ‘a man blameless and upright, who feared God and set his face against wrongdoing.’ And he defended his good name against the efforts of his three hypocritical friends to besmirch it. In the end Job was vindicated and his three supposed friends were severely censured by Jehovah God.—Job 1:8; 42:7-10.
Those who bear the name of Jehovah as his witnesses have added reason to be concerned that their conduct is upright, for not only their own name, but also the name of the Christian congregation and the name of Jehovah himself are involved. Thus a Witness in Dahomey, Africa, working in a better-class hotel, found $1,600 in a pair of trousers he was given to take to the cleaners. He took the money to the hotel owner, who put it in a safe. When the guest discovered his loss he was greatly distressed and went immediately to the owner of the hotel bemoaning his loss, having no money with which to pay his bills, in fact, nothing except his airplane ticket back to France. The hotel owner was glad to be able to return the money and explained that it had been found by one of his employees. The guest asked to see this employee; meeting the man, he asked him what made him return the money. The employee replied that he was one of Jehovah’s witnesses and that as such he lived by Bible principles. The guest, very much impressed, stated: ‘I know Jehovah’s witnesses are good people and when I return to France I am surely going to look them up, because I want to know more about them.’
The hotel owner, who previously had little time for the Christian witnesses of Jehovah, has changed his mind. Now he is glad to have one of them working for him. That honest deed not only gave the Witness involved a good name, but helped to enhance the name of Jehovah’s witnesses as a people. More importantly, it served to glorify the name of their God, Jehovah.
Truly a good name is something precious. Happy are all those who have a good name, for it is better than great riches, finer than sweet-smelling oil.