Many remember the sufferings of the righteous Job in the Old Testament. One avalanche of adversity after another rolls over the poor man. Desert pirates plunder his wealth. A sudden storm leaves his ten beautiful children dead in the rubble. Painful sores plunge him into unrelenting misery. He sits on a heap of ashes at the county landfill, scraping his sores, his heart and head on a roller coaster of praises and complaints, confused about what God is up to.
There is another side to the old boy’s suffering we may seldom consider. But Job certainly does. He has lost not just his health and wealth and children. He has lost his good name. A spotless reputation that took a lifetime to build is demolished overnight. Three of his best and brightest friends show up, assuming the worst – that Job must be hiding some secret scandal or God would not have dumped on him like this. Job himself moans amid tears: “I have become a laughingstock to my friends.” Pitifully he complains: “Even the little boys scorn me; when I appear, they ridicule me.” Today, Job would be the whipping boy of the late night comedians, the butt of schoolboy jokes on the playground.
We are all sensitive to this, aren’t we? We talk about someone ruining our good name. We mean our reputation, what people think of when they hear our name. What do we think of when we hear the names Jeffrey Dahmer, Osama bin Laden, or Judas Iscariot?
We care about the thoughts people think when they hear our name. All it takes is one comment taken out of context, one half-truth about our life gone viral, or one stupid sin with no one to blame but ourselves, and the damage is done.
Nor is it only our name that gets trashed. Maybe your Dad told you at the supper table one evening: “You keep up that behavior and you’re going to ruin the family name.” What we do or don’t do, the good or bad, the truth or lies that others tell about us, sweetens or stinks up our own name and the names of those around us.
The 2nd Commandment guards the good name of God as we teach and live according to His word. The 8th commandment guards our good name and that of our neighbor. Thankfully, when our own name leaves a lot to be desired, we can start a new life under a new name, the name of Christ Himself.