By Joe Slater
Truth is truth, no matter who says it. However, people’s willingness to give truth a fair hearing may depend on their estimation of the person speaking it. Someone said, “I can’t hear what you are saying because the way you are behaving is shouting so loudly!” We ought to be extremely careful to guard our reputation. “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1).
Even such a great man as Abraham could lose his influence with people. God wanted him to a blessing to the nations (Genesis 12:2). But when famine drove him to Egypt, Abraham deceived his hosts into thinking Sarai was merely his sister, not his wife. As a result, Pharaoh took Sarai into his harem, intending to make her one of his wives.
When God plagued Pharaoh’s house, the king realized his error and confronted Abraham with these words: “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife” (Genesis 12:18, 19). Sadly, instead of being a blessing, Abraham had brought trouble to the Egyptians. In doing so, he had ruined his influence. How much attention do you suppose Pharaoh would have paid to Abraham had he attempted to teach the king about the one true God?
One of the harsh realities of life is that building a good reputation takes a long time, but you can destroy it in a single moment. God may forgive you, but that doesn’t mean your neighbors will (especially those who don’t know the Lord). One foolish act or word may destroy your influence with another person for decades – perhaps even for a lifetime!
Abraham assumed that the Egyptians had such low morals that they would kill him to take away his beautiful Sarai. While they were pagans, they evidently respected marriage and were offended by deceit. They expected better behavior than they saw from Abraham. Likewise our society, though nominally “Christian,” is, in practical terms, pagan. Still, most folks have some idea of right and wrong, and they expect true Christians to behave uprightly. If we fail to do so, we ruin our reputation and thereby sacrifice our influence.
Brethren, let us strive to show the proper example to our neighbors, that we may gain the moral authority to teach them the good news of Jesus Christ!
- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.