A good name is more desirable than great wealth.
Respect is better than silver or gold.
The rich and the poor have this in common:
the Lord is the maker of them all. (Proverbs 22:1-2 GW)
(Context—Proverbs 22:1-? GW)
Every person wants a measure of respect. A sense of being appreciated and valued. It’s a pretty basic desire. Perhaps more of a need for gaining a healthy psyche.
This was the impetus for the song Respect. Otis Redding—the great R & B singer who died tragically and way too young—wrote it from a man’s point of view. A few years later, Aretha Franklin rewrote it (R-E-S-P-E-C-T) from a woman’s perspective and this pop version became more popular than the original.
Why were these two songs so well liked? Because they spoke to this basic human desire and psychological need for significance.
But the basic idea of respect gets morphed into an unhealthy desire when distorted by popular culture and when it takes on a much harder edge.
When respect is recast as intimidation—as a tough action hero image, or is idolized—such as with any current celebrity—it becomes a cartoonish caricature of respect.
Anchored in character
Respect and a good name speak of integrity of character—something far deeper than a projected image. An imposter projects a facade—an external representation—but is a fraud underneath. A popular example would be Frank Abagnale of Catch Me If You Can fame.
Solomon—a man of exceptional wisdom and wealth—says a good name and respect are more valuable than great wealth. They have an incorruptible and lasting value.
True respect is anchored in character. It’s not something we can demand as in the two songs, nor something to be commanded through projecting an enviable persona.
People who have integrity of character gain respect because of who they are. They don’t project an image of respect, they reflect who they are by how they live and treat others.
Integrity can be described in these ways—decency, goodness, honesty, virtuous, trustworthy, sound, completeness, honorable, truthful. These qualities have nothing to do with appearance or possessions. They’re not external but internal qualities.
In the context of these verses in Proverbs, respect and a good name are tied to respect and awe of God. They aren’t based on wealth or status. What God entrusts to us—whether wealth or status or neither—isn’t tied to our integrity—for the poor and rich have the same Creator.
True respect is anchored in character. People who have integrity of character gain respect because of who they are. They don’t project an image of respect, they reflect who they are by how they live and treat others.
If you want genuine respect that a good name carries with it, pray for integrity of character. Ask the Lord to help you develop the qualities of integrity for every day life and for help with treating people with respect and grace.
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