In the course of our journey through Ecclesiastes we heard Solomon express his conviction that a wise person isn’t any better off than a fool. They both have the same fate in the end. Yet he doesn’t 04 epitaph3discount the value of wisdom in our walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Life under the sun is hard and foolishness makes it even harder. I once heard a comedian say, “Life is hard, but it’s even harder when you’re stupid.” Money, fame, and popularity can make life a little easier, but none of those can compare to the value of wisdom. We spend our lives pursuing wealth, but Solomon argues there’s something more valuable. In Proverbs 16:16, Solomon says, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” When God asked him what he wanted, he chose wisdom. With wisdom came everything else. He understood how much better it was. In Ecclesiastes 7, Solomon turns to explain the “better” things in life.

The first thing that Solomon says is better concerns our reputation. Ecclesiastes 7:1 begins, “A good name is better than precious ointment.” He says something very similar in Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” When Paul explains what the characteristics are that make for a good church leader he includes the idea of having a good reputation with the community as a whole. In 1st Timothy 3:7, Paul instructs Timothy that church leaders must “be well thought of by outsiders.” A good reputation is an essential ingredient for a godly life. Ryken says, “Here in Ecclesiastes the Preacher compares a good reputation to the rich aroma of an exotic fragrance. He does this by making a Hebrew wordplay that is hard to capture in English.” It is like poetry. The words for name and oil or perfume rhyme giving the parable a melodic sound. Ryken continues his explanation, “This proverb may have been a popular saying in those days. In the dusty communities of Biblical times, scented oils and other fragrances were valuable commodities. Yet having a name that people admire for integrity is even more valuable. With every comment we make and every action we take, we either build up or tear down our reputation.”

A good name refers to a godly character and lifestyle through time. Who we are is more important than what we have or do not have! I might argue that it is also better than what we leave behind. There will be those that leave behind great wealth but were crooked in their dealings in business, were neglectful of their responsibilities to their families, and had few, if any, friends to grieve their passing. On the other hand there will be those that leave behind little wealth, but friends and family who loved them and will miss them deeply. C. H. Spurgeon poignantly stated it this way: “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you, and were helped by you, will remember you. So carve your name on hearts, and not on marble.”