Proverbs 22:1 reads, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (ESV).
What does it mean to have “a good name”? Certainly it relates to one’s reputation. It cannot be bought, otherwise it wouldn’t be more valuable than silver or gold.
One aspect I didn’t have time to explore in the sermon was how the context of Proverbs 22 might help answer that question. Bruce Waltke, in his excellent commentary on Proverbs, points out that several verses in the chapter extol generosity of the poor or relate to the value of riches (Waltke, Proverbs 15-31, 199). These include the following:
22:2 The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the maker of them all.
22:4 The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.
22:7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
22:9 Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.
22:16 Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
Verse 2 orients us towards understanding the rest of the poor/rich verses in this chapter. God makes both the rich and poor. He is sovereign over our life situation. This puts the rest of the verses into perspective, reminding us that though we may have gained our riches through sweat, blood and tears, it is ultimately the Lord’s decision to allow us to have what we have.
Oppression of the poor, therefore, or hoarding riches, does not produce a good reputation or honor to God. Perhaps we are to understand this idea of having a “good name” in relation to some of these concepts.
The verses remind us to value godliness over wealth, to care more about God’s will than man’s wallet.