Question: "What does the Bible say about reputation?"
Answer: Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, / Favor is better than silver and gold.” So the Bible encourages us to keep good reputations, whenever possible. This idea is echoed in Ecclesiastes 7:1, which says, “A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume” (NLT). The Bible is clear that a good reputation is of great value and is therefore something that we should strive to earn and maintain.
A reputation is built over time as others evaluate our life choices and determine who we are based on how we behave. While we don’t like the idea of being judged, the fact is that we are always “judging” each other as a way of determining who is trustworthy and who is not. Reputations are built on the judgment of others. If we need a neighbor to watch our house while we are gone on a trip, we will most likely choose one with a good reputation. We will not ask the kid down the street who is always in trouble with the law. He does not have a good reputation. But if another neighbor has been honest and friendly and has given us no reason to doubt his character, we will place something of value under his care because his reputation gives us confidence that he can be trusted.
As Christians, our number-one priority is to represent Christ well to this lost and broken world (Acts 1:8). Because Jesus is honest, kind, loyal, and honorable, we should strive to be those things as well (Ephesians 5:1), and all of those qualities contribute to a good reputation. People evaluate the worthiness of our message based on our reputations as people of character. If we have poor reputations, our message is tainted as well. Dishonesty, gossip, and hypocrisy damage our testimonies and do not reflect the character of Jesus. Many will not heed our words when our reputations do not match what we claim to believe.
So what is a good reputation, and how do we maintain it? People with good reputations are those who live with integrity. Their private lives match their public personas. There are no hidden agendas, double lives, or dishonest practices. They live authentically, and, when they sin, they quickly make it right with those they offended (Matthew 5:23–24). They keep their word, treat others respectfully, and accept their responsibilities. They treat their families well, and, because they are consistent, others know what to expect of them. Those with good reputations usually care very much about keeping their reputations intact.
Pastors, especially, are called upon to keep a good reputation in the eyes of the watching world. Among the elder’s qualifications is that “he must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap” (1 Timothy 3:7). It’s not just what believers say about their pastor that counts; it’s what the unsaved are saying, too. Having credibility with those outside the church is an important part of a pastor’s ministry. If he loses his credibility with those he is trying to reach with the gospel, then he brings reproach upon his office, his message, and his Lord. The world needs to see pastors who are honorable, upright, self-controlled, and real.
When Paul and Silas passed through Lystra on Paul’s second missionary journey, they found a disciple named Timothy (Acts 16:1). Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him on his journeys and aid the ministry (verse 3). Timothy left home and followed Paul, and thus began a lifelong friendship. Factoring into Paul’s decision to select Timothy for ministry work is verse 2: “The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of [Timothy].” In other words, Timothy had a good reputation.
There are times when our reputations are tarnished through no fault of our own. Gossip, slander, and lies can cast a shadow over the most stellar of reputations. In those times, we can follow the example of Jesus. Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (KJV). The Son of God knew that, when He left the throne room of heaven to come to earth as a man, His exalted reputation would not follow Him. His rights to be worshiped, adored, and praised had to be set aside in order to accomplish God’s higher goal. So He left His reputation behind and entered a world where He would be misunderstood, mocked, and lied about (Matthew 26:59–60). The Son was willing to entrust His reputation to His Father, and, whenever we are wrongly accused, we can do the same (1 Peter 2:22–23).
Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We live peaceably when we make the kinds of choices that lead to good reputations. We seek ways to do good, we have proved ourselves to be people of virtuous character, and others have learned to trust us. We avoid being stained by the world (James 1:27). And, although there are times when our reputations are tainted due to the dishonesty of others, God wants us to live in such a way that those who know us won’t believe the slander. “Your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you” (1 Peter 2:15, NLT).