The Value of a Good Name

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The Value of a Good Name

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"I think I'm a great governor."

This announcement to the press came from now-embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on Aug. 27, 2008, during the Democratic National Convention ("2-Minute Bio on Rod Blagojevich," Time).

On Dec. 9, Governor Blagojevich was arrested on a litany of corruption charges, including allegations so brazenly disgraceful that a hardened mobster might blush with shame. Yet Mr. Blagojevich has shown no signs of anything approaching shame.

Corruption charges

A recent article in Time titled "Governor Gone Wild" chronicles the long list of alleged crimes, such as "conspiring to solicit bribes from the next President of the United States."

According to Illinois law, the governor has the sole authority to appoint a replacement to the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama. Mr. Blagojevich described this power as "golden," saying that he had no intention of "giving it up for…nothing."

According to FBI investigators, Mr. Obama's suggestion for the appointment was rebuffed because, in the words of the governor, he would not get "anything except appreciation."

Irony of ethics reform

The irony of this sordid situation is that the governor "took office vowing to bring ethics reform to Illinois" ("The Chicago Way," Economist.com, Dec. 10, 2008). His 2002 campaign promised a change in direction from the previous governor, George Ryan, who was himself plagued by corruption scandals.

As The Economist wryly noted, "If convicted of wrongdoing…Mr. Blagojevich would have the honor of being the most despicable politician in Illinois's recent history. This is no small feat in a state where three of the past seven governors have gone to jail."

Governor Blagojevich would have done well to consider that the Bible warns against corruption. God looks very unfavorably upon those who use positions of authority and power for personal gain. This self-serving behavior invariably leads to the downfall of the perpetrator.

A bad name in the Bible

Consider the story of Gehazi, the servant of the prophet Elisha (see 2 Kings 5:1-27 2 Kings 5:1-27 [1] Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance to Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper. [2] And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife. [3] And she said to her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. [4] And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. [5] And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. [6] And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come to you, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may recover him of his leprosy. [7] And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man does send to me to recover a man of his leprosy? why consider, I pray you, and see how he seeks a quarrel against me. [8] And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Why have you rent your clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel. [9] So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. [10] And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall come again to you, and you shall be clean. [11] But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. [12] Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. [13] And his servants came near, and spoke to him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid you do some great thing, would you not have done it? how much rather then, when he said to you, Wash, and be clean? [14] Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like to the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. [15] And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray you, take a blessing of your servant. [16] But he said, As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused. [17] And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray you, be given to your servant two mules' burden of earth? for your servant will from now on offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD. [18] In this thing the LORD pardon your servant, that when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this thing. [19] And he said to him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way. [20] But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD lives, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. [21] So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well? [22] And he said, All is well. My master has sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray you, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments. [23] And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them on two of his servants; and they bore them before him. [24] And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed. [25] But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said to him, From where come you, Gehazi? And he said, Your servant went no where. [26] And he said to him, Went not my heart with you, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and olive groves, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? [27] The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall stick to you, and to your seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.
American King James Version×
). Naaman, a powerful commander in the Syrian army, was sent to Elisha to be healed of leprosy—a terrible disease for which there was no cure. After being healed, Namaan tried to pay Elisha for his services, but the prophet said "As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing" (verse 16).

Gehazi saw an opportunity. Out of Elisha's sight, he pursued Naaman and asked for what amounted to a kickback—a quantity of silver and some fine clothing. Not surprisingly, Elisha knew what Gehazi had done. The prophet confronted him and said, "Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing…? Therefore the leprosy of Namaan shall cling to you and your descendants forever" (verses 26-27).

As a prophet of God, Elisha was in a position of power and authority. He understood that he was placed in that position to serve, not to get wealthy by taking bribes and selling favors.

Gehazi learned that lesson the hard way, much as it now seems Governor Blagojevich is learning it. Rather than the physical disease of leprosy, the blight of a tarnished reputation will cling to him forever, and his political career will almost certainly end in disgrace.

Good names rule

For vertical thinkers, these sad examples show the wisdom of God—"A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold" (Proverbs 22:1 Proverbs 22:1A GOOD name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.
American King James Version×
).

For another aspect of building a good personal reputation, read "Just What Do You Mean—Fun?" VT

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