By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
As a child, my parents made it clear I was to live in a manner that would not embarrass my family or me. My dad would go a step further and say, your name is all you have at the end of the day. They can take your job, they can take your friends, and they can take your wealth; but they cannot take your name. The writer of Ecclesiastes is expressing the same sentiment. He wants the reader to understand dying with a good name is better than being born in wealth.
Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 (ESV): A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
We already know the writer of Ecclesiastes believes that life on this earth is a life “full of vanity and misery”. It stands to reason that the writer is reminding us that the indulgences of the flesh are not beneficial in the long-run. As a result, it is better to mourn at a funeral than it is to celebrate at a wedding. It is better to find sorrow than it is to find laughter. Notice that those who are wise (because they are living a life that is pleasing to God) are in the house of mourning. The wise can see the “vanity and misery” of the world, so they do not indulge in the pleasures of this earth. It is only the fools who are focused on short-term pleasure, while living in a world of corruption and misery. Maintaining a good name in spite of the ability to prosper through wickedness and corruption, shows one’s ability to focus on God and His ultimate reward on Judgment Day.
Proverbs 22:1-4 (ESV): A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all. The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.
The apostle Paul speaks on the love of money being the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). People are willing to steal, cheat, and make decisions based on personal gain when they love money. However, when you are focused on maintaining a good name, you are humble and live a life of respect to the Lord. You are focused on spreading the name of God and furthering His kingdom, even if that is at the expense of your well-being. In addition to the fact that people will find it difficult to speak ill of you, you will not be tempted by all the world has to offer. You will stay clearheaded, understanding that the precious ointment of the world comes at a great cost. Focus on humbly maintaining your good name in the Lord and everything else will take care of itself.