A GOOD name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.
Both of these things are good in their way and in their measure. They may be held together, for many wealthy men have enjoyed's good name and much "loving favour." But it is not given to all men to command both of these. A large proportion of rich men have lost their reputation for equity' and humanity by the way in which they have gained their wealth. And they must necessarily be many who are compelled to take and keep their place among the poor. But if only one of these two desirable things is open to us, we may be very well satisfied that this is not the wealth, but the worthiness, not the full treasury, but the good name and the kind regard. For -
I. WEALTH IS VERY LIMITED IN ITS CAPACITIES. It is true that it commands considerable material advantages, and that it puts it in the power of its possessor to enlarge his own mind, to extend his social circle, and to multiply his usefulness. This, however, it only does as an instrument. It does not ensure any of these things. Men may possess it, and they may, as very many of them do, altogether neglect to avail themselves of the opportunity. It does not even dispose men to do these wise things; it is as likely as not to allure them in other and even contrary directions. The power of mere wealth, apart from the character of its owner, is very much slighter than it seems. It only really secures bodily comforts and the means of advancement.
1. It does not center even happiness, for mere jollity or transient excitement is not happiness.
2. It does not supply knowledge, much less capacity, and still less wisdom.
3. It does not provide the friendship which is worthy of the name, for no man who respects himself will be the friend of the rich simply because he is rich. We do not love a man because he has a large account at his bank.
4. It does not include the possession of any estimable moral qualities, nor, therefore, the favour of God. moreover -
II. WEALTH HAS ITS SERIOUS DRAWBACKS.
1. It involves heavy burdens, great anxieties lest it should be lost.
2. It entails the most serious responsibility, lest its misuse or its non use should bring down the weighty condemnation of God (Matthew 25:26).
3. It tempts to a dishonourable and degrading self indulgence; also to a cynical and guilty contempt of the poor and lowly.
III. A GOOD REPUTATION INCLUDES OR IMPLIES THE BEST THINGS. Of course, men may acquire a fair name and even loving favour by very superficial qualities; but if they do, it is usually but short-lived. It breaks down under the weight of hard fact and accumulated experience. The good name which Solomon is thinking or, and which is the only thing of the kind worth pursuing, is that which is built upon or which springs from a sound character. It therefore implies the possession of uprightness, of purity, of truthfulness, of kindness, of reverence; and it therefore implies the possession of piety and the favour of God.
IV. A GOOD REPUTATION IS A SOURCE OF TRUE AND PURE SATISFACTION.
1. It satisfies our self-respect; for we tightly wish to enjoy the intelligent esteem of our neighbours. We are rightly troubled when we lose it; we are justified in our satisfaction that we possess it. It is a pure and lasting gratification.
2. It satisfies our affections. To have the "loving favour" of men is to have much true gladness of heart.
V. A GOOD REPUTATION IS A SOURCE OF MUCH POWER. While the bad rich man is steadily declining in his command, his humbler neighbour, who is esteemed for his wisdom and his worth, is gaining an influence for good with every passing year. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.