A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1
If we were honest, how would you answer when asked if you’d rather have money or respect? Some might say money can buy you a form of respect but you would certainly know the people who bow down to you simply because of your wealth. And that would sit there in the back of your mind at all times. Resentment would probably grow. And resentment destroys our hearts and minds.
When I quit my regular job to become a stay at home mother, I struggled with the idea of not having an income of my own. Since I was a child, I brought in money in some form or another, be it collecting cans and newspapers to babysitting, and then working in restaurants and finally my career in public relations. Not only did I “pull my weight” with money I found pleasure in the accolades others gave me for a job well done. When I “retired,” what I found was wherever I would volunteer it was my reputation that was the more important factor. People knew they could count on me to get the job done right. They knew I would show up when promised. In every volunteer position I have ever had I found myself being asked to take on more responsibility – because my reputation was that of someone to be trusted.
I was recently reading about Elizabeth Kenny (died 1952). She was a self-taught bush nurse from Australia. Without any formal medical training she became well respected for her volunteer work with polio patients. She hailed from a farming family and through her passion for helping others earned the title of “Sister” during World War I as she tirelessly gave aid and comfort to the wounded. In 1932, her polio work caught the attention of the wife of the Trade Commissioner. She was invited to create a makeshift clinic to treat hundreds of children. She eventually set up clinics all over Australia. In recognition of her work, in February 1950, U.S. President Harry Truman signed a Congressional bill giving Kenny the right to enter and leave the US as she wished without a visa. This honor had only been granted once before, to the French leader in the American War of Independence.
While Kenny’s work eventually brought her wealth from patents, she contributed much of it to her work with children and polio. She never seemed to reach for that wealth, rather for the recognition of the results of her work. Like so many others we may admire isn’t it their gutsiness, commitment to bettering society, willingness to forgo comforts in their quests, and their faithfulness to truth and honesty that we hold up higher than their income?
Friend, if you are grasping for wealth at the expense of your good name, I want to remind you that gold flows easily through our fingers and can disappear in an instant. It is the good we do, the trust people place in us, and the commitment we make to do our best that will stand the test of time. Our touchstones for living a life based on a good reputation can be found in the apostles and Jesus. They never sought wealth. Only to be trusted with the expansion of the Gospel. Today we can say they succeeded.
Heavenly Father, when faced with a path to take that diverges from wealth or reputation, please help me make the longer term choice to be a faithful servant to you and stand firm on the principles of honesty and integrity.