Some verses from the holy scriptures:
Abstain from all appearance of evil. – I Thessalonians 5:22
A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. – Proverbs 22:1
A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. – Ecclesiastes 7:1
These verses are part of God’s divinely inspired and divinely preserved word, and there is great wisdom in them. As with all scripture, however, we must rightly apply these to our lives in light of what other portions of holy scripture tell us. Let us use an example to illustrate.
A parent may teach her children that “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches,” and that they should not do such-and-such because it could damage the family’s good name. While this sort of teaching is admirable and uses God’s word as a basis for the instruction given, there is a danger when this is the primary reasoning given for obedience and righteous living. Let us consider another portion of scripture:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. – Matthew 23:25-28
Our Lord Jesus plainly teaches here that we are to live righteously rather than shaping our lives in such a way as to appear righteous to others. This teaching from Matthew 23 does not nullify the verses of scripture quoted earlier. Rather, it sheds further light on them. How are we to achieve or keep a good name? We do so by cleansing ourselves from the inside out!
We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We should therefore confess our sins to our brothers and sisters in Christ (James 5:16) rather than sweeping those sins under a rug and putting on a falsely-righteous front.
Is it God’s desire for His children that they sin, but hide it from their fellow church members so as to “abstain from all appearance of evil” and have good name?
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. – Romans 6:1-2
We have been saved eternally by the electing power of our Father, the redemptive work of His Son, and the washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. There is liberty in understanding such truth, but Galatians 5:13 teaches us that we should not use that liberty for an occasion to the flesh. That is, once we understand that we are in possession of eternal salvation we should not use that freedom to sin willfully.
Brethren, let us do good works because it is right before the Lord. Let us remove sin from our lives because it is right before the Lord. Let us teach our children the whole counsel of God and avoid raising little Pharisees and hypocrites who only abstain from the appearance of evil while the inside of the cup and platter are never cleansed. Let us not be Pharisees and hypocrites ourselves. When we conduct our lives in a righteous manner primarily in order to have a good name, are we focusing on ourselves rather than “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith”?
To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. – Jude 1:25