At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold”Proverbs 22:1
The style of reasoning displayed in this proverb is common throughout the book of Proverbs, and we should not be surprised at its presence here.
The structure is this. It is better to have X and not have Y than to have Y and not have X. It is sometimes assumed that this gives us a binary choices between X and Y, but the reasoning is more subtle than that. What we actually have are four options.
1. We could have X and not Y.
2. We could have Y and not X.
3. We could not have X or Y.
4. We could have both X and Y.
The following statement is copying the structure of our proverb. It is better to be good at golf than to a grand master champion at chess, and praise in the clubhouse is better than awards from all the chess geeks.
So someone could be good at golf and bad at chess. Or they could be good at chess and bad at golf. And in the world most of us live in, we could be bad at both. And last, there is the rare fellow who is good at both golf and chess. Obviously, if given a choice, we would all go for #4.
With our proverb, that would mean having a good name and great riches. It would mean having and loving favor more than you value silver and gold. So great. If you get the option of both, go with both.
But the writer of Proverbs knows that we often have to choose, and because we often have to choose, we should have our metric ready beforehand. To the extent that it depends on me, what do I pursue? A good name or great wealth? The biblical answer is that you must pursue the one most favored by the Word, and that would be a good name.