COLUMN: A good name is more valuable than riches

Published 7:30 am Sunday, June 16, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

William Shakespeare posed the question “What’s in a name?” Centuries before Shakespeare, King Solomon penned these wise words, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches,” (Proverbs 22:10).

An ancient Greek writer once said, “My name survives me.” How does this happen? I think there are two ways. First, it’s through your family lineage. The name your parents gave you when you were born may be the same name that you give your child. Then your child may give your last name, if not your full name, to their chil dren. And so on. Three generations in our family have “Ruth” as a middle name.

Secondly, it’s also through your family lineage. Whether or not you have a namesake among your descendants, the kind of name you give them might be a label to live to or live down. We make a name for ourselves by the way we live our lives. Our “name” or reputation follows us through life and death.

Let me share with you a story of a father and son that illus trates what I am trying to say. Artful Eddie was known to be a crony of Al Capone. He ran the famous gangster’s dog tracks, fixing races by overfeeding seven dogs and betting on the eighth. Eddie had it all — wealth, power, prestige.

But he decided to turn himself and Capone’s financial records over to the Internal Revenue Service. Capone was arrested and convicted and imprisoned in Alcatraz. By squealing on Capone, Eddie must have known what the reaction of the mob would be. Yet, he did it because he wanted to give his son a name. To do so, Eddie decided it was worth the risk to clear his own name. Sadly, the mob silenced Eddie with two shotgun blasts and he never lived to see his son grow up.

Artful Eddie would have been proud of his boy. Butch became one of the most well-known names in the world. After an appointment to the Naval Academy, Butch served as a Navy pilot during World War II.

He shot down five enemy bombers over the Pacific Ocean one night, saving hundreds of lives aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lexington. Eddie’s son received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Franklin Roosevelt.

Now, when people say the name of the airport in Chicago, they think of aviation heroism — not the name of a gangster. You probably know the name of the airport there. It was named for the son of Eddie O’Hare.

A minister/teacher/author explores the basis of Proverbs 22:10 in his book African Wisdom: “Abraham is known for his faith, not his finances. Job is regarded for his patience and not his fortune. Solomon had the world’s wealth, yet he prayed for wisdom, not wealth. … Be a person of integrity, peace, and justice, and your name will provide you access to places that money cannot.”

— Jan White has compiled a collection of her columns in her book, “Everyday Faith for Daily Life.”