Reputation Matters, or Does It?

Title: Reputation Matters, or Does It?

Bible Book: Proverbs 20 : 11

Author: Franklin L. Kirksey

Subject: Reputation; Testimony; Truth; Witness



Reputation matters, or does it?  Burke Ramsey, brother of the late Jonbenet Ramsey, thinks it does.  He recently filed a 75 million dollar defamation lawsuit against CBS over a documentary series suggesting he at 9 years of age killed his sister twenty years ago.1

Proverbs 20:11 reads, “Even a child is known by his deeds, Whether what he does is pure and right.”  This verse speaks of reputation.  Reputation is “the estimation in which a person or thing is commonly held, whether favorable or not,” according to the New Webster’s New World Dictionary.

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe writes, “In this day of media magic, insignificant and ungifted people can be ‘hyped’ into international fame in a short time, but that kind of reputation is no guarantee of character.  The British essayist Walter Savage Landor never saw a television set, but he may have had this ‘false fame’ in mind when he wrote over a century ago, ‘When little men cast long shadows, it is a sign that the sun is setting.’”2  Dr. Wiersbe explains, “Reputation is what people think we are; character is what God and the holy angels know we are.”3

Exemplary works can help one to gain a good reputation. 1 Timothy 4:12 reads, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” This is someone who has a reputation for godliness.  Ecclesiastes 12:1 reads, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’”

Excellent work can help one to gain a good reputation. Proverbs 22:29 reads, “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.”  This is someone who has a reputation for greatness.

Note three things about a good reputation.

I. The desirability of a good reputation.

Proverbs 22:1a reads, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches. . . .” Ecclesiastes 7:1a reads, “A good name is better than precious ointment. . . .”  These verses reveal a good name is better than money or medicine.  Stated another way a good name is better than wealth or health.

Proverbs 20:11 reads, “Even a child is known by his deeds, Whether what he does is pure and right.”  What is true of a child is true of a church!  Revelation 3:1-6 reads, “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.  Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.  He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’’” (Emphasis Mine)

II. The distinguishability of a good reputation.

Rev. Dr. Kenneth Maurice Davis, currently serving as president of the Mississippi National Baptist State Convention, previewed his message for the coming Sunday about 35 years ago, as we were classmates at William Carey University.  His main point was as follows: “Everything that looks good ain’t good.”  Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between those who have a good reputation, and as Dr. Davis said a long time ago, “Everything that looks good ain’t good.”

Luke 16:14-17 reads, “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.  And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. ‘The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.  And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.’”

Dr. Joseph Charles Philpot (1802-1869) shares the following comment: “The pride—the ambition—the pleasures—the amusements—in which we see thousands and tens of thousands engaged, and sailing down the stream into a dreadful gulf of eternity—are all an abomination in the sight of God. Whereas, such things as faith, hope, love, humility, brokenness of heart, tenderness of conscience, contrition of spirit, sorrow for sin, self-loathing, self-abasement, looking to Jesus, taking up the cross, denying one's self, walking in the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life—in a word, the power of godliness—these things are despised by all—and by none so much as mere heady professors who have a name to live while dead. ‘That which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.’”4

Luke 18:9-14 reads, “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) warns, “The man who clings to his own righteousness is like a man who grasps a millstone to prevent himself from sinking in the flood.”5

Matthew 23:14 reads, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.”  Notice the how they live by appearances.  They focus on the outside and ignore the inside.  Matthew 23:25-28 reads, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Emphasis Mine)

Philippians 3:2-11 reads, “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!  For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:  circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Philippians 2:5-7 reads, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Emphasis Mine) Doing the will of God does not build a reputation before men according to the ways of the world. While it matters what men think in some ways related to our lives; there are other ways that do not matter.

Someone states, “Many people would be scared if they saw in the mirror not their faces, but their character.”  Matthew 7:15-23 reads, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.  ‘Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Remember each one of us will give an account of our life to God (Hebrews 9:27).  Jesus said, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).  Remember the same Jesus who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins will judge believers for reward at the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10) and unbelievers for retribution at the great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).

III. The durability of a good reputation.

Rev. W. R. (Wallace Raymond) Harvey-Jellie (1871-1955) warns, “Reputation is easily damaged. That which only a lifetime can build an hour may defame. . . . He who wrongs another's reputation may next wrong yours. By heeding his slanders you encourage his vile trade, and slander must find new victims!”6

Rev. F. S. (Ferdinand Schureman) Schenck (1790-1860), pastor of the Brick Church, Montgomery, New York, and author of The Ten Commandments in the 19th Century, writes, “We are to speak truth, again, not only to our neighbour, but about him. [Exodus 20:16 reads, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”] This Commandment guards a man's reputation—gives each man a right to have his reputation the exact expression of his character. . . . We should guard against secret prejudice against our neighbour, or envy of him, and should cultivate such love for him that we will rejoice in his good qualities and in his good name, that we will sorrow over the faults in him we cannot help seeing, and throw over them the garment of Christian charity, rather than exulting to proclaim them to the world. . . . This Commandment should govern not only our tongues, but our hearts and ears as well. It forbids an appetite for gossip, a desire to hear detraction, and a tendency to form unfavourable opinions of others. By holding our peace when we have it in our power to defend, by failing to mention the good when the evil is spoken of, by encouraging the telling of evil by eager listening, we assault the reputation of our neighbour by the assent of our silence. There is a modern statue of Truth, instinct with the fire of genius, which strongly incites an opposite spirit and action. A stately woman in pure white marble, with beautiful and firm face, wears on her head a helmet and carries a sword in her hand. At her feet lies a mask touched by the point of her sword. She has just smitten it from the face of Slander, and now she proudly draws her robe away from its polluting touch.”7

Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse (1895-1960) writes, “The fields of war are not the only scenes of hatred. There may be lurking enmity in the simple haunts of peace. Something you love is destroyed. Flowers may be pulled up by the roots, or a tree cut around so that it dies. A door may be defaced, a window broken. Or someone may seek to hurt your reputation. The poison pen letter is written; the lie is circulated. Malice shoots the arrow of false rumor. You cannot learn why these things are happening. All you know is that you have an enemy.”8

From the Life Application Bible we read, “Slander means destroying another's good reputation by lies, gossip, rumor-spreading, etc. Malice often manifests itself through slander. We should not treat fellow Christians the way the world treats us ([1 Peter] 3:16).”9 1 Peter 3:16 reads, “Having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Emphasis Mine)

Shakespeare’s Iago said to Othello:

“Good name in man and woman dear lord,

Is the immediate jewel of their souls.

Who steals my purse steals trash, ‘tis something, nothing;

‘Twas mine ‘tis his, and has been slave to thousands;

But he that filches from me my good name

Robs me of that which not enriches him

And makes me poor indeed.”10

Rev. John G. Butler writes, “He lost his reputation. No matter how upright a person is, an evil accusation, though it is ridiculous and absurd, will hurt that person's reputation. Of course, not everyone will believe outlandish accusations; but there are plenty who seem quite ready to believe the unjust accusations and to spread the news to others who will also be influenced by the false accusations to think unkindly of the accused. Joseph Parker [1830-1902] said, ‘There is a tendency to believe charges against men, without patiently and carefully going into particulars, without making such moral inquest into them.... We are prone to say, when an accusation is lodged against a man, ‘After all there must be something in it.’ We reason that it is impossible to get up a charge against a man without that charge having, at least, some foundation. . . .

We cannot control our reputation, but we can control our character. Evil men may cruelly destroy our reputation, but we can keep them from destroying our character. Character is infinitely more important than reputation; therefore, we must not make the mistake of being more concerned about our reputation than our character. Worrying about losing our reputation may be more of an exercise in pride than anything else. We need to take care of our character, and let God take care of our reputation. It is character that really matters with God and ought to really matter with us. We cannot have God’s approval without character, but we can have God's approval without reputation. Being concerned about reputation will not keep us pure; but, in fact, such a concern can often lead us astray. However, being concerned about character will promote holiness.”11

Both elders and deacons must each have a good reputation, not only among Christians but also among those who are not Christian (1 Timothy 3:1-13).  Titus 1:5-9 reads, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” Acts 6:2b-4 reads, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Emphasis Mine)

Reputation can be defiled by having an affair. Proverbs 6:32-33 reads, “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. Wounds and dishonor he will get, And his reproach will not be wiped away.” 

Reputation can be defiled by giving an appearance. While there can be the appearance of good as in the case of the Pharisees, there can be the appearance of evil.  1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 reads, “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”

Reputation can be defiled by forming an association.  1 Corinthians 15:33 reads, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’” Paul quotes a proverb by the Greek poet Menander: “Bad company corrupts good character.”  This is the part of your reputation that matters. Psalm 119:63 reads, “I am a companion of all who fear You, And of those who keep Your precepts.”


Dr. John A. Broadus (1827-1895) warns, “No Christian has a right to be regardless of his reputation, for not himself alone is concerned. He may imagine it matters little for him what men may think, since God knows his heart; but in so far as men do him injustice, they fail to render that glory to God which his good works ought to secure; and so, out of regard for the cause with which he is identified, he should not suffer himself to be misunderstood or misrepresented, where it can be avoided.—This passage, [Matthew] v. 13-16, should lead the Christian reader at once to tremble at his responsibility and to rejoice at his privilege.”12 Matthew 5:13-16 reads, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. ‘You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Rev. W. R. Harvey-Jellie exhorts, “Jealously defend a worthy reputation.”13 Paul the apostle recounts in 2 Timothy 4:14-17, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.  At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”

Reputation is no substitute for Christ. Saul of Tarsus had reputation but not Christ (Philippians 3:2-11).  Then on the Damascus road he met Christ (Acts 9:1-19). I heard Dr. Adrian Rogers (1931-2005) make this statement, “The worst form of badness is human goodness when it is substituted for the new birth.”14 Always choose Christ over reputation!

Reputation is no substitute for character. Dan Greer recently stated, “When feelings trump beliefs then you are at the mercy of the crowd and not your character.”

I do not know if you have followed Rick Burgess of Rick & Bubba radio fame in Birmingham, Alabama.  According to news reports Rick's daughter publicly declared she is bisexual.15  After clearly and compassionately stating his opposition to her decision, Rick Burgess tweeted the following on January 15th: “I would rather be in a momentary conflict with my earthly daughter than eternal conflict with my Heavenly Father.”16 

The Alabama Citizens Action Program led by Dr. Joe Godfrey has a program called American Character Builders17 for young people, addressing issues such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and bullying.

Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) explains, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of me.”18 He also said, “Character is what a man is in the dark.”19

Pastor Kent Crockett shares the following: “A store owner interviewed a young man for a job. He asked, ‘If I hire you to work in my store, will you be honest and truthful?’ The young man answered, ‘I will be honest and truthful whether you hire me or not.’ God still sees us, even when no one is watching.”20 Always choose character over reputation!


1Christine Wang, “JonBenet Ramsey’s brother files $750 million defamation lawsuit against CBS” Wednesday, 28 Dec 2016 Accessed: 01/171/17 .

2Warren W. Wiersbe, Ten Power Principles for Christian Service (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997), 21-22. 

3Wiersbe, Principles, 20.

4J. C. Philpot, “That which Is highly esteemed among men” (Luke 16:15) Accessed: .

5Charles H. Spurgeon, “Hope for the Worst Backslider” Sermon Notes (Jeremiah 3:22-23). 

6W. R. Harvey-Jellie, The Preacher’s Commentary on the Book of Leviticus, (London: Richard D. Dickinson, 1885), 239.

7Ferdinand Schureman Schenck, The Ten Commandments in the Nineteenth Century (New York, NY: Funk & Wagnalls,1889), 125-127.

8Donald Grey Barnhouse, Expositions of Bible Doctrines Taking the Epistle to the Romans As a Point of Departure – Volume 4: God's River. WORDsearch Corp.

9Life Application Bible Commentary – 1 & 2 Peter and Jude. WORDsearch Corp. 

10Madeleine Doran, Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 “Good Name in Othello” Vol. 7, No. 2, Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama (Spring, 1967), 195. Accessed: 12/29/16 .

11John G. Butler, Joseph: The Patriarch of Character (Iowa, LBC Publications, 1993), 65. Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

12John A. Broadus, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Philadelphia, PA: American Baptist Publication Society, 1896), 97-98.

13W. R. Harvey-Jellie, The Preacher’s Commentary on the Book of Leviticus, (London: Richard D. Dickinson, 1885), 240.

14Adrian Rogers, “God Versus Humanity” Sermon Notes (Romans 3:9-10). 

15John Archibald, “Rick & Bubba’s Rick Burgess speaks about his bisexual daughter” Accessed: 01/17/17 .

16Rick Burgess, Tweet, Accessed: 01/26/17 .

17American Character Builders,  Accessed: 01/14/17 .

18A Z Quotes, Dwight L. Moody, Accessed: 01/17/17 .

19Robert Elliot Speer, The Marks of a Man, or, The Essentials of Christian Character (New York, NY: Association Press, 1907), 100.

20Kent Crockett# .

Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on in hardcover, paperback and eBook] & / [email protected]   / (251) 626-6210

© January 29, 2017 All Rights Reserved

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