A Good Name/Rotten Names

Pastor Josh Combs

Part 1: A Good Name

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” Proverbs 22:1

In 1 Kings chapter 3, the Lord appears to newly crowned King Solomon in a dream. Solomon, who had just inherited the throne from his father, David, and the divine right to build the temple in Jerusalem, was asked by God (and I’m paraphrasing), “Whatever you want, ask Me, and I will give it to you.” In that moment, everything in the universe lay before Solomon like a feast, yet he was limited in his choice to only one thing. Would he choose riches, victory in battle, long life, prosperity, or health? Which of all God’s splendid gifts would he choose? The Scripture records Solomon petitioning the Lord for “an understanding mind” (1 Kings 2:9). He did not choose riches or long life, but wisdom.

Years later, King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, penned the words of Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is  better than  silver  or  gold.” Far more valuable than great wealth is a good name and a good reputation. Many people have soiled their name and reputation in pursuit of wealth, power, and pleasure. Solomon is simply saying that they have chosen the object of lesser value. The great Bible commentator Matthew Henry wrote, “We should be more careful to do that by which we may get and keep a good name than that by which we may raise and increase a great estate.”

One of my favorite country songs is “My Last Name” by Dierks Bentley. In the song, he talks about honoring the last name he was given and the joy of giving his wife his last name. In the chorus of the song, he sings, “I’ll never bring it shame; it’s my last name.” I have, sadly, brought shame to my first and last names. It pains me to think about what I have chosen before a “good name.” The real tragedy of this unwise trade is that, as a Christian, I have ultimately defamed the name of Jesus. In 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul writes, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

Our goal and aim ought to be to have a good name and reputation so that our association with Christ, rather than detracting people from the Gospel, will actually draw people to the Lord. The Scripture says, “Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)

Part 2: Rotten Names

“The name of the wicked will rot.” Proverbs 10:7

“His name is mud” is an expression you may have heard. It entered the American lexicon in the 1860s following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre while Lincoln watched the final performance of Our American Cousin on Good Friday, April 14, 1865. As soon as Booth delivered what would be the death blow to Lincoln using a .44 caliber derringer, he leapt from the Presidential Box toward the stage, but according to historians, his right spur became tangled (ironically) in the flag hanging from the box, causing Booth to haphazardly fall to the stage, breaking his left leg. When onlookers realized that Booth, who was an actor from an acting family, had actually perpetrated one of history’s most heinous crimes, both the chase and the escape ensued. Booth would attempt to flee to the sanctuary of the South, but his efforts were greatly hindered by his broken left leg. He made his way to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who housed and, using his medical training, set and splinted Booth’s broken leg. Mudd would contend that he did not recognize Booth, but the riding boot that Mudd had to remove and which was found in Mudd’s home, was clearly marked “J. Wilkes.” Dr. Samuel Mudd would be found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. His name was Mudd.

Like Benedict Arnold before him, and Lee Harvey Oswald (the JFK assassin) after him, Booth’s name is infamous. Mudd may be forgotten, but the expression, “His name is mud,” is not. There are names throughout American and world history that are forever ruined. They have been dragged through the mud.

The Scripture simply says, “The name of the wicked will rot” (Proverbs 10:7). The names of those who rebel against God’s laws and standards become a stench. What is true of something that rots is that it only gets worse. The smell becomes unbearable. In your workplace, school, neighborhood, hometown, church, or family, is your name rotting? When your name is read, brought up in conversation, or pops up on someone’s phone, does it smell? Is it mud? The beginning of Proverbs 10:7 says, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing…” May your life and memory be a blessing and not a rotting stench.

Today’s Bible Reading: Philippians 1:27; Matthew 26:20-25; Ecclesiastes 7:1


The Assassination: Death of the President by Champ Clark, 1987, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, 2011, Henry Holt and Company, New York, New York

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