“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” (Proverbs 22:1)
When you were born, your parents likely put a great deal of thought into your name. After all, it stays with you for the rest of your life. Other family members, or perhaps someone in the church, probably gave you a keepsake card or plaque with the meaning of your name included; maybe your name was chosen because of what it means or signifies.
But does this verse mean that some names are worth more than others if it is a “good” name?
#1 Known through Symbolism or Context
During biblical times, names were a significant part of who you were. Fathers named their children as a form of prophecy (Genesis 5:29) or of the conditions surrounding their birth (1 Samuel 4:20-22). The names of the twelve tribes of Israel were also rich in meaning, as they told the story of Jacob’s wives and his relationship to them (Genesis 29:31-30:24).
Sometimes, God Himself would give someone a new name as a result of His involvement in their lives (Genesis 17:5, 32:28). Jesus even gave Simon a new name, Peter, because of the role he would play in the church after Jesus’ death and resurrection (Matthew 16:18). Whether you were born with it or given it later on in life, your name mattered and told the world who you were.
#2 Known by Strength of Character
But even deeper than the name itself, the above verse in Proverbs is talking about something bigger. It’s referring to a person’s reputation, their character, their actions, and the qualities they are known for. Far more valuable than their wealth or possessions was their personal integrity and how loyal they were to their friends and family.
A classic example of the bond between two people was David and Jonathan. From the moment they met, Jonathan and David were knit together by the bond of brotherly love (1 Samuel 18:1-4). They encouraged each other in the Lord (1 Samuel 23:16-18), and they mourned when they were apart (1 Samuel 20:41-42). When Jonathan died, David said of his friend that “thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women (2 Samuel 1:26).” The name of Jonathan was precious to David because of what his friend meant to him: their loyalty to each other, their pledge to care for each other’s descendants, and their reverence for God.
#3 Known Separate from Currency
Just because we become wealthy does not mean that we can secure our souls for heaven (Matthew 16:26). We can only be identified with Jesus not by the donations we make or the amount of money we have to our name, but by our love for one another (John 13:35). If we live our lives for the sole purpose of amassing more and more possessions and authority and influence, we will die and leave it all behind (Ecclesiastes 2:21, Luke 12:14-21).
#4 Known and Saved by the Creator
So the “good name” the writer of Proverbs is referring to is a person’s reputation. There are numerous examples of people in the Bible who had good reputations. Although he was mistreated and sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph still behaved with honor and propriety in his master’s house (Genesis 39:6-10). When Job lamented the tragedy God allowed to befall him, he longed for the days when the whole town knew him by his good deeds and respected him because he cared for others (Job 29:7-12). Gideon was given the alternative name Jerub-Baal because he defied the social norms of idol worship (Judges 6:32).
These examples do not mean that our actions can save us, no matter how good or righteous they are (Ephesians 2:8-9), but it does mean that we are known by what we do. When Saul became a follower of Jesus, he was known for his previous abuse of the church (Acts 9:21), but how he lived the rest of his life proved that he was a true believer.
#5 Known as Savior and Christ
Beyond any name on earth is the Name of Jesus. Given to his earthly parents by the angel Gabriel (Matthew 1:21), the Name of Jesus is the ultimate representation of a name given to someone based on their life and actions. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice to save people from their sins and fulfilled the prophecies about Him as the promised Messiah. And Jesus will reign above every ruler on earth by His power, and His Name alone will be worthy to be glorified and praised (Philippians 2:9-11).
Think about your friends and coworkers. You undoubtedly have opinions about them from the moment you say their name. Some have positive memories associated with them, and others cause you to frown. Some cause feelings of love and adoration, and others cause irritation or even anger. The important question is, what do others think when they hear your name? Do you live your life worthy of the Name of Jesus written on your heart? If we show love to others and remain faithful in this life, we will be given new names in heaven (Revelation 2:17).
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.