In his book, I Almost Missed The Sunset Gospel singer and songwriter Bill Gaither tells a great story that illustrates the impact of our reputation.
Shortly after he and Gloria were married and living in Alexandria, Indiana, they began looking for some land to build a house. Soon they found a nice parcel south of town where cattle were grazing and learned it belonged to a retired 92-year old banker named Mr. Yule.
Yule owned a lot of land and was not interested in selling any of it. Furthermore, wanted it to remain used for agriculture. However, the Gaither’s visited Mr. Yule and inquired about buying it.
“Not selling,” he replied pleasantly, as he peered at them over the top of his bifocals.
“I know,” Bill said, “But we teach school here and thought maybe you’d be interested in selling it to someone planning to settle in the area.”
Yule pursed his lips and stared at him.. “What’d you say your name was?”
“Gaither. Bill Gaither.”
“Hmmm. Any relation to Grover Gaither?”
“Yes, sir. He was my granddad.”
Mr. Yule put down his paper and removed his glasses. “Interesting. Grover Gaither was the best worker I ever had on my farm. Full day’s work for a day’s pay. So honest. What’d you say you wanted?”
Again, Bill repeated his request.
“Let me do some thinking on it, then come back and see me.”
A week later the Gaither’s returned and Yule said he would sell the property for $3800.
“If that was per acre,” Bill thought, “I would have to come up with nearly $60,000!
“$3,800?” He repeated.
“Yup,” said Yule, “Fifteen acres for $3,800.”
Bill knew the land had to be worth at least three times that, so he readily accepted.
Almost 30 years later, as Bill and his son strolled through the beautiful property that had once been pasture land, He turned and said, “Benjy, you’ve had this wonderful place to grow up through nothing that you’ve done, but because of the good name of a great-granddad you never met.”
It’s important to note the difference between reputation and character. Reputation is an outward manifestation of what others think we are. But character is the sum total of the inward qualities of who we really are. It’s possible to have a sterling reputation, yet actually, be crooked in character. However, the Bible addresses the value of a good reputation.
The wise man ascribed the value of reputation this way. “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Prov. 22:1). Then in Ecclesiastes 7:1, he wrote, “A good name is better than fine perfume.”
The seven men chosen to be special servants of the church in Jerusalem, who were forerunners of those we call Deacons today, were required to possess a “good reputation” (Ax. 6:3).
In addition, one of the qualities required for men to Shepherd the church as Pastors is having “a good reputation with those outside the church” (1 Tim. 3:7).
When we work to acquire the character of Christ, grow in the Christian graces, and produce the fruit of the spirit, our reputation will take care of itself among people who really matter. And most importantly with the Lord. As the ancient Athenian philosopher, Socrates expressed it, “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”
Finally, American business tycoon, Warren Buffet, offers this insightful observation and advice. “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman