Summary: This passage in Proverbs 22 illustrates our potential for our names, positions, judgments and behaviors.
OUR NAME AND IDENTITY
Text: Proverbs 22: 1 – 2, 8 – 9 & 22 – 23
Someone once said “True wealth is not found in gold, silver or other tangible forms of treasure. It is found in the possession of a reputation for honor, integrity, and justice”. (Walter Bruggemann, Charles B. Cousar, Beverly R. Gaventa, James D. Newsome. Texts For Preaching: Year B. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993, p. 495). We live in an age when people will try to steal the identity of someone else to gain material things. The villains of identity theft often get ahead at the expense of their victims. I just recently read about how one man who spent almost forty years seeking to regain his good name as a result of identity theft. After hearing about a story like this, we can see much more clearly how a good name is more desirable than riches.
From these passages in Proverbs, we can see that God wants us to be truthful, honorable, merciful and humble. These same passages illustrate our potential for our names, positions, judgments and behaviors.
NAME AND IDENTITY
Can we really separate who we are from what we do? There are two things that we can say about children of Israel and their culture: 1) “For Israel. Praise and life were inseparable partners”. 2) “Israel was an honor and shame culture.” (Leander E. Keck. ed. The New Interpreter’s Bible. Volume V. Raymond C. Van Leeuwen. “Proverbs”. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997, pp. 125, 197). From those two things we can go on to ask two other questions. Does our public face match our private face? Does our reputation match our character? Our reputation is based upon the perceptions of others for both the good or bad. Our character is who we really are warts and all. When someone is the same person in public as they are in private, we call them genuine or authentic. When someone has a public face that does not match the behavior of their private face, we call them two-faced.
Can you recall a tradition that your family had or has about remembering who you are? When I was growing up my mother always put her hands on us and prayed a quick prayer for us before we went out the door. When she was doing that she was praying for our protection from danger. Then she would say to us “Remember who you are.” I still remember that tradition well.
POSITION AND JUDGEMENT
We are all created with God-given ambition for our growth and development. 1) We also have a responsibility to help those who need our help. We live in relationship to other people. 2) Paul cautions us about not to think to highly of ourselves (Romans 12: 3). 3) Paul also reminds us that we are called to be living sacrifices because this is part of our spiritual worship (Romans 12:1). 4) Paul echoes Jesus because Jesus said that we are to love one another so that others will know that we are His disciples (John 13:34 – 35). 5) We live out that love in serving others as we follow the example of Jesus who came not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28).
Do we abuse our positions? Proverbs 22:2 cautions us against being to proud and arrogant with our positions because e of the fact that God is the Creator of us all. 1) Paul says that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (I Corinthians 4:2 NIV). 2) “… to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (Ephesians 4:7). 3) We have to remember to have “… sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith that God has given us” (Romans 12:3 NIV). 4) We are all one in Jesus Christ, regardless of our earthly distinctions of male, female, slave or free, Jew or Greek (Galatians 3:28). 5) Jesus put it this way: “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (Matthew 13:12, 25:29 NIV). What did Jesus mean by that? It seems to mean two things as someone (Sherman E. Johnson) put it. A) It means “The more generous you are [in almsgiving or in teaching], the more you will ultimately possess”. (George A. Buttrick. ed. The Interpreter’s Bible. Volume 7. Forty-seventh printing. Sherman E. Johnson. “The Gospel According To Matthew: Introduction and Exegesis.” Nashville, 1987, p. 411). B) It also means that “Not to use an opportunity means to lose it”. (Sherman E. Johnson, p. 561). We have a tendency to abuse our positions when we judge others as worthy or not worthy because God made us all.