Ecclesiastes 7:1 A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.
The book of Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon near the end of his life. Going back many years (1 Kings 3:4-15), after King David’s death, Solomon had recently taken over the kingdom. God appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream and offered him whatever he desired. Solomon requested wisdom so he could lead the people well. God was so pleased with Solomon that he gave the following promise: “I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” (vs. 12b). And sure enough, people visited him from around the world to gain from his wisdom. We read of the Queen of Sheba (who likely came from either Ethiopia or Yemen) to test his wisdom. She was apparently a woman of great wealth, beauty, and power who ruled alone and was not enamored with the religions of her own land. After meeting King Solomon, she blessed the God of Israel, saying: “Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.” (1 Kings 10:7b).
So near the end of his life, King Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, containing Proverbs, maxims and sayings. They are basically a collection of things that “the wisest man ever” had learned in his life. I pay special notice to things that elderly people say, especially when I recognize wisdom in their words. For this reason, I place especially significant weight in Solomon’s words. Interestingly, Solomon spends considerable time in the early chapters describing the meaningless of much of what he pursued, which he considered selfish pleasure. He concluded that his toils and his pursuits were a striving after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).
Solomon says: “a good name is better than fine perfume” (Eccles. 7:1). We see this played out many times in the Bible. Boaz was described as “a man of standing” (Ruth 2:1); Ruth herself was known in the town as “a woman of noble character” (Ruth 3:11); Cornelius the centurion was known as “devout and God-fearing” (Acts 10:2); Moses was known as the humblest man on earth (Numbers 12:3), and King David was “a man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22). I could list many more people in the Bible, who were far from perfect, but when it came to the totality their lives, people could not help but recognize their righteous living.
Professional football and baseball player, Tim Tebow, has endured his share of ridicule for his proclamations of the gospel during his time in college and in professional ranks. However, even his harshest critics have difficulty criticizing the stories of Tim praying over a man having a seizure in the stands, or someone dying on an airplane; or taking time in the middle of a game to approach a boy in the baseball stands with special needs. The Tim Tebow Foundation further shines a bright light in a dark world. While he would be the first say he is far from perfect, Tim Tebow has developed “a good name”.
Today’s verse in Ecclesiastes 7:1, ends with an interesting parallel: “…and the day of death better than the day of birth.” (vs 1b). How can our day of death be compared to a good name? Deaths lead to funerals which include eulogies. Those who have developed “a good name” are fondly remembered with words of praise and honor. How about you? Have you developed “a good name”, one which will be honored in a eulogy? If not, it is never too late with Christ. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12).