“A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1)
It seems odd at first that Solomon would link these two maxims together. How is the day of death better than birth, and what has this to do with the value of one’s good name? The great king had once enjoyed a name synonymous with godliness and great wisdom, but his name had eventually become so sullied with the excesses of wealth and fleshly indulgence that he began to long even for death. It is a tragic thing for godly young people to allow their good names to be ruined by careless carnality, thenceforth never to be able to fulfill the promise their lives once seemed to carry. Solomon could employ all the most costly ointments and other comforts to ease his declining years, but they could never redeem his good name. “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:1-2).
The Christian believer has a double incentive to maintain a good name, of course, for his words and deeds inevitably reflect, for good or ill, on the name of Christ as well. When we cause our own names to be damaged, we also (as David did) give “great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme” (2 Samuel 12:14), and there are, sadly, many such enemies eagerly watching for us to give them yet another occasion to “blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called” (James 2:7).
In a very real sense, of course, even those who do maintain a good name all their lives can joyfully anticipate the day of death. Christ has promised: “I will write upon him the name of my God . . . and I will write upon him my new name” (Revelation 3:12). That will, indeed, be a “good name” and one we shall enjoy forever! HMM