Today’s selected verses:
“A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”
(Proverbs 22:1 NIV)
Solomon’s use of the phrase “a good name” refers to a good reputation for a person. Solomon is referring to someone who has a good reputation on both the outside and the inside, who lives a life of integrity.
Solomon is not telling us to be people-pleasers, catering to the whims of those around us. He is telling us that living a life of humility and integrity and honor to the Lord is the best choice we can make. We can buy some things we need; a good reputation is not one of them. It has to be built and earned over time.
“The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord
Are riches, honor and life.”
(Proverbs 22:4 NASB)
The phrase “The reward of” is literally translated “On the heels of”. This indicates an ordering, a procession of one event before another. In this case, the order is humility and fear of the Lord first, and the benefits (riches, honor, and life) second.
By using this ordering, Solomon reminds us to seek the Lord first, and God will provide everything else. Our natural tendency is to seek riches, honor, and long life on our own, and give God the leftovers of our time and attention. That is backwards, and we wear ourselves out striving after things that God willingly provides when we put Him first.
Jesus taught this same principle during His Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus reminds us not to worry about what we will eat, drink, or wear. Listen to Jesus’ words:
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
(Matthew 6:31-34 NIV)
When we focus on putting God first each day, the rest of our earthly needs will work themselves out.
“Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
(Proverbs 22:6 NASB)
Solomon writes to those of us who are parents and reminds us that raising children takes a lot of effort, and must be intentional. As we read Solomon’s proverbs, there are only two ways for a young person to go – either the way of the wise, or the way of the fool. The book of Proverbs is filled with these side-by-side comparisons of wisdom of foolishness, of wise choices and foolish ones.
Interestingly, the way of the wise requires intentional training and investment by the parent into the child’s life. Conversely, the way of the fool requires no training – just letting the kids go and do their own thing.
“Do you see someone skilled in their work?
They will serve before kings;
they will not serve before officials of low rank.”
(Proverbs 22:29 NIV)
Solomon is referring to people who have developed a talent and skill in a particular vocational area, and have a good reputation in that work. This is not limited to crafts or manual trades like carpentry or plumbing or the like. It can also refer to vocations like banking, engineering, customer service, education, or any number of other learned skills.
Solomon’s point is that this person is diligent in the use of their time and energy to develop their vocational skills. They are not boastful; they let their work speak for itself. And their work is noticed by others and rewarded accordingly.
Jesus told a similar story (Matthew 25:14-30) about the master who went on a journey and put his household in charge of three servants, then came back and reconciled with each one. For two of the three servants, the master’s response to the servants was “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.(E) Come and share your master’s happiness!”
May we use our time wisely to hear these same words from both our Heavenly Master as well as our earthly masters.