A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all. Proverbs 22:1-2 (NIV)
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. Exodus 20:7 (NIV) (The Second Commandment)
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16 (NIV) (The Eighth Commandment)
The #MeToo movement has brought the ugly reality of sexual misconduct and abuse that has been ignored or overlooked in our workplaces and in the greater culture to the awareness of the public eye. It is true that it is sometimes difficult to define what constitutes sexual harassment or misconduct because cultural mores change over time, and the definition of what may or may not be abusive can be quite subjective. What one person may consider to be harmless flirting or joking might be highly offensive to another. While it is difficult but ultimately necessary that when misconduct and abuse do occur that those painful truths are exposed and dealt with, sometimes people aren’t entirely truthful.
False accusations are nothing new. Sometimes people accuse others of misconduct out of revenge, or for their own financial or political gain. Some people simply thrive on others’ pity and want to elicit the same sympathy and care that real victims receive. Other times consensual acts are taken out of their contexts when a relationship sours or a promise is not kept. Unfortunately for all of us there are consequences when we go outside the boundaries God has set for our behavior and conduct.
There is a reason why God takes His own name and reputation so seriously. It is in His name that all creation exists. It is in His name alone that we can exist and function and be provided for. He gives us the gift of calling on His name for provision, for life and salvation.
The writer of Proverbs (likely King Solomon) teaches us that in life with other people reputation matters. A good name is everything as we go about our lives in the world. Who is going to trust someone with a bad reputation? A good reputation is something to maintain and protect.
The Second and Eighth Commandments deal with the concepts of name and reputation- the Second with God’s name, and the Eighth with the name and reputation of our neighbors.
We can destroy the reputations of others with our words. It is imperative that we keep our speech regarding others truthful. This doesn’t mean that legitimate abuse or misconduct should be kept silent- on the contrary, it should be exposed, if only to prevent the same abuse from happening to others. We should be very aware of how our words affect the names and reputations of God, others, and ourselves.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)