FAME…OR INFAMY?A sermon based on Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23First Baptist Church of Lynchburg September 12, 2021By Paul Dakin May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

FAME…OR INFAMY?
A sermon based on Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
First Baptist Church of Lynchburg
September 12, 2021
By Paul Dakin
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our
Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.


A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.
Proverbs 22:1


Here is a news item that caught my attention last week. It was widely reported in a number of
news outlets. Perhaps you saw it too…
On Monday August 30, a former college senior caught on security footage lugging a
congressional “members only” sign around the US Capitol pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor for
her part in the January 6 Capitol riot. She is one of more than 600 people charged thus far in the Capitol
riot. Of those who have been charged so far, forty seven have already pleaded guilty…
Twenty-three year old Gracyn Courtright pleaded guilty on last Monday to illegally entering and
remaining in a restricted building or ground on January 6. In exchange for her guilty plea, two other
charges against her were dropped. Courtright agreed to pay $500 in restitution for damage done to the
Capitol during the riot. She also faces up to six months in prison when she is formally sentenced in
November. However, if other persons who have been sentenced for their part in the riot are any
indication, she will probably receive very little jail time.
At the time of the riot, Ms. Courtright was an economic mathematics major at the University of
Kentucky. She was a good student who consistently made the Dean’s List. Last January, she had only one
semester to go before she would have graduated. However she did not return to school in the spring.
And now, this coming December, she will face a disciplinary hearing at the university in which she faces
expulsion from the school.
As she prepared to enter her guilty plea via Zoom at the virtual proceeding on Monday, it was
reported that Ms. Courtright started sobbing. “I’m just—I’m just shaking. I’m sorry,” she told the judge.
But the facts presented by the prosecution reveal that she did not always feel sorry for her actions on
January 6th…
Assorted cellphone videos recorded on the day of the riot show her chanting “Whose house?
Our house!” along with many others in the hallways of the Capitol building. There are photos of her
carrying around the “Members Only” sign that she had lifted from the House chamber. During and after
the riot, she posted a number of pictures on her Instagram account in which she bragged about her
P a g e | 2
participation. One picture had the caption “idk what treason is.”1
Another photo had her smiling on the
steps of the Capitol with the caption “Can’t wait to tell my grandkids that I was here!” And perhaps the
most notable of all, she posted a mirror selfie on her Instagram account the next day with the caption,
“Infamy is just as good as fame. Either way I end up more well known” followed by some “X’s” and
“O’s”.2
What a statement: “infamy is just as good as fame. Either way I end up more well known.”
These days, it seems that many people really do feel as if notoriety is just as desirable as fame. Ms.
Courtright’s statement reminds me of some words spoken by the legendary American showman P. T.
Barnum. Barnum was quoted as saying, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” In his view, even bad
publicity is good because it means that people are at least talking about you. From his point of view, the
worst thing that can happen is when no one talks about you at all. His statement is sometimes true, I
suppose…but not always. It is obvious that bad publicity can cripple a business or a career. But from her
Instagram comment, it seems likely that Ms. Courtright would have agreed with Mr. Barnum…
The writer of Proverbs 22 would beg to differ with Ms. Courtright and Mr. Barnum. Our text
today makes it clear that infamy is NOT just as good as fame. In the opening verse of today’s passage,
Proverbs makes that clear when it says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and
favor is better than silver or gold…”
“A good name…” Of course, the writer of Proverbs is talking about the value of a good
reputation. He talks about it as being more valuable than either silver or gold. One thing that I find
interesting in this passage is the connection that the writer of Proverbs makes between having a good
name and one’s respect and care for the poor.
If we were to talk about what it means to have a good reputation, we might include things like
being known for being honest…or of being fair in all one’s dealings with others…or being competent in
one’s chosen field of endeavor…or of always meeting one’s obligations…or of being someone who can
be depended upon when asked to do something. All of those things undoubtedly help to build a good
reputation. Those are all things that would cause others to speak well of us. And those are personal
qualities that are well worth striving to cultivate in our lives.
But that is not what the teacher in Proverbs seems to be saying. Instead, he equates having a
good name with being generous to the poor and treating the poor fairly. In verse 9, he tells us that
“Those who are generous are blessed.” And in verse 22, he cautions, “Do not rob the poor because they

1
“idk”= “I don’t know.”
2 www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/gracyn-courtright-college-student-who-toted-members-only-sign-in-capitolpleads-guilty/ar-AANUyrV and www.pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2021/08/30/west-virginia-woman-pleads-guiltyentering-us-capitol (Accessed August 31, 2021)
P a g e | 3
are poor or crush the afflicted at the gate…”3
And why does he say that? He gives us the answer in verse

  1. There he writes, “The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord is maker of them all.”
    While there may be some superficial differences between those who are wealthy and those who
    are poor, Proverbs reminds us that, at our core, we are really not so much different from one another as
    we may appear to be. And that is because God created us all—the rich, the poor and everyone in
    between. Therefore we are to treat one another with the respect due to all of those who carry the
    imago dei—which is Latin for “the image of God”—that we are taught that all of us carry in Genesis
    1:26-27.
    And then the writer of Proverbs takes it a step further. He says that those who take advantage
    of the poor will reap the dire consequences of their actions. In verse 23, he writes, “The Lord pleads
    [the] case [of the poor] and despoils of life those who despoil them.” The word translated here as
    “despoil” is the Hebrew word kaw-bah’. It is a word that means “to cover” or “to defraud another.” In
    most other places in the Old Testament, the word is simply translated as “to rob.” So what the verse
    says is that, those who take advantage of the poor and rob them of what is rightfully theirs, will face the
    same treatment at the hands of the Lord. The Lord himself will rob them of life in the same way…
    Today’s passage begins with the idea that a good reputation is priceless—that it is worth more
    than silver or gold. I would like for us to consider for the next few minutes how one acquires a good
    reputation…and how that impacts our relationship with God…
    It seems to me that a good reputation is made up of two things: it is informed by WHO we are…
    and by what we do. That is particularly true in actions that other people observe us doing…
    A good reputation is an outgrowth of who we are inside. In our last time together, we spent our
    time thinking about the teachings in the book of James. As you may recall, James is mostly concerned
    that our actions be a reflection of the faith that we carry inside. The predominant theme in the book of
    James is that “Faith without works is dead.” He is not discounting the role of faith in the life of the Spirit
    by that statement. Far from it. Indeed, according to our Lord Jesus, the motives that guide our good
    deeds are just as important as the deeds themselves. James is emphasizing that our faith in Christ
    should result in good works…
    Our Lord Jesus made this concept very clear throughout his teaching. One such instance of many
    can be found in Matthew 23. Jesus is teaching the crowds in the city of Jerusalem. Among the people
    who are listening to him are the Pharisees. The Pharisees had a very good reputation among the people.
    They were known for their strict observance of the Old Testament law. They were known for their good
    works and their devotion to God in the realms of prayer and of good deeds. But Jesus found their
    devotion to God lacking. He was not fooled by their actions. The inward attitudes of the Pharisees were

3
In Old Testament days, the gate of the city was the place where court was held and where official, legally binding
contracts were made and ratified.
P a g e | 4
all wrong. In Matthew 23:26-27, he called the Pharisees out for their hypocrisy when he declared to
them and to the crowd that was listening,
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which
look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In
the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous…but on the inside you are full of
hypocrisy and wickedness.
In order to have a good reputation that is pleasing to God, our inward attitudes must be right.
We cannot expect God to be pleased with us if our attitude toward serving God and others is corrupted
by a sense of self-seeking. You know—attitudes such as “What am I going to get out of it?” Good deeds
that are done with that kind of attitude are nothing more than hypocrisy and wickedness… according to
Jesus. And having a good reputation with others—but not with God—is an exercise in futility. What
would be the point of being well-thought of by others—but of not being pleasing to God? How would
that be beneficial in the grand scheme of things?
The other thing that builds a good reputation is the doing of righteous deeds—outward
expressions of our devotion to God. I will say at the outset that this is a slippery business. Our reputation
is often built upon what others see us do and say. Others can only think of you in positive terms when
they witness and experience positive things from you. But on the other hand, doing Godly actions
primarily for show in front of others is unworthy of a child of God.
Again, our Lord Jesus gives us the teaching. In Matthew 6, Jesus warns us about doing good
works in the presence of others for show. He says that, if you do your good works in the sight of others
and receive praise from people, then that is all the reward that you can expect. In Matthew 6, he says,
Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have
no reward from your Father in heaven…But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know
what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is
done in secret, will reward you…And when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your
Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
It must be admitted that Jesus’ teaching here seems to be at odds with what he spoke earlier in
that same “Sermon on the Mount.” In Matthew 5: 14-16, Jesus taught his disciples about what effect
their lives as believers should have on those around them. He said,
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do people light a lamp and put it
under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same
way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and praise your Father in
heaven.
P a g e | 5
In that passage, it seems that Jesus is telling his disciples that they are to do their good works so
that others can see them. That is because, when other people see those good works, then God will get
the glory for how he is working in the lives of his people.
On the surface, it seems to be a bit of a contradiction, doesn’t it? How can we do our good
deeds in private so as to not be seen by others…and yet do them openly, so that others can see them
and God can be praised? Good question…
I think that the secret is to be found in something that we discussed earlier. When our good
deeds—the very things that build a good reputation among others—are done out of a sense of who
we are, then God is pleased. The point is not simply to do good deeds. You can do good deeds which
appear on the outside to be Godly…and not have an ounce of the love of God in your heart. That was
the error of the Pharisees. And it must be said that there are still plenty of people in our world today
who fall prey to that same illusion. They believe that if they are known for adhering to a strict list of do’s
and don’ts, then that is enough…but but Jesus teaches that it is not…
Instead, one of the goals of the life of faith is to get to the place in our lives where—yes—we do
good deeds…but we do them as an overflow of God’s love and joy which flows from our hearts. Love
and joy that are a part of who we are…of who the Holy Spirit is transforming us to be…Compassion that
is informed by the love of Jesus that extends to all. And when love, and joy, and compassion for others
spills out of our lives and onto others, then the good reputation that the writer of Proverbs commends
to us will certainly be ours. It will be a reputation that money cannot buy. And it will be a reputation
that pleases God by what we say…and think…and do…In reality, life doesn’t get much better than that…
To God alone be the glory! Amen

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.
Proverbs 22:1


Here is a news item that caught my attention last week. It was widely reported in a number of
news outlets. Perhaps you saw it too…
On Monday August 30, a former college senior caught on security footage lugging a
congressional “members only” sign around the US Capitol pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor for
her part in the January 6 Capitol riot. She is one of more than 600 people charged thus far in the Capitol
riot. Of those who have been charged so far, forty seven have already pleaded guilty…
Twenty-three year old Gracyn Courtright pleaded guilty on last Monday to illegally entering and
remaining in a restricted building or ground on January 6. In exchange for her guilty plea, two other
charges against her were dropped. Courtright agreed to pay $500 in restitution for damage done to the
Capitol during the riot. She also faces up to six months in prison when she is formally sentenced in
November. However, if other persons who have been sentenced for their part in the riot are any
indication, she will probably receive very little jail time.
At the time of the riot, Ms. Courtright was an economic mathematics major at the University of
Kentucky. She was a good student who consistently made the Dean’s List. Last January, she had only one
semester to go before she would have graduated. However she did not return to school in the spring.
And now, this coming December, she will face a disciplinary hearing at the university in which she faces
expulsion from the school.
As she prepared to enter her guilty plea via Zoom at the virtual proceeding on Monday, it was
reported that Ms. Courtright started sobbing. “I’m just—I’m just shaking. I’m sorry,” she told the judge.
But the facts presented by the prosecution reveal that she did not always feel sorry for her actions on
January 6th…
Assorted cellphone videos recorded on the day of the riot show her chanting “Whose house?
Our house!” along with many others in the hallways of the Capitol building. There are photos of her
carrying around the “Members Only” sign that she had lifted from the House chamber. During and after
the riot, she posted a number of pictures on her Instagram account in which she bragged about her
P a g e | 2
participation. One picture had the caption “idk what treason is.”1
Another photo had her smiling on the
steps of the Capitol with the caption “Can’t wait to tell my grandkids that I was here!” And perhaps the
most notable of all, she posted a mirror selfie on her Instagram account the next day with the caption,
“Infamy is just as good as fame. Either way I end up more well known” followed by some “X’s” and
“O’s”.2
What a statement: “infamy is just as good as fame. Either way I end up more well known.”
These days, it seems that many people really do feel as if notoriety is just as desirable as fame. Ms.
Courtright’s statement reminds me of some words spoken by the legendary American showman P. T.
Barnum. Barnum was quoted as saying, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” In his view, even bad
publicity is good because it means that people are at least talking about you. From his point of view, the
worst thing that can happen is when no one talks about you at all. His statement is sometimes true, I
suppose…but not always. It is obvious that bad publicity can cripple a business or a career. But from her
Instagram comment, it seems likely that Ms. Courtright would have agreed with Mr. Barnum…
The writer of Proverbs 22 would beg to differ with Ms. Courtright and Mr. Barnum. Our text
today makes it clear that infamy is NOT just as good as fame. In the opening verse of today’s passage,
Proverbs makes that clear when it says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and
favor is better than silver or gold…”
“A good name…” Of course, the writer of Proverbs is talking about the value of a good
reputation. He talks about it as being more valuable than either silver or gold. One thing that I find
interesting in this passage is the connection that the writer of Proverbs makes between having a good
name and one’s respect and care for the poor.
If we were to talk about what it means to have a good reputation, we might include things like
being known for being honest…or of being fair in all one’s dealings with others…or being competent in
one’s chosen field of endeavor…or of always meeting one’s obligations…or of being someone who can
be depended upon when asked to do something. All of those things undoubtedly help to build a good
reputation. Those are all things that would cause others to speak well of us. And those are personal
qualities that are well worth striving to cultivate in our lives.
But that is not what the teacher in Proverbs seems to be saying. Instead, he equates having a
good name with being generous to the poor and treating the poor fairly. In verse 9, he tells us that
“Those who are generous are blessed.” And in verse 22, he cautions, “Do not rob the poor because they

1
“idk”= “I don’t know.”
2 www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/gracyn-courtright-college-student-who-toted-members-only-sign-in-capitolpleads-guilty/ar-AANUyrV and www.pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2021/08/30/west-virginia-woman-pleads-guiltyentering-us-capitol (Accessed August 31, 2021)
P a g e | 3
are poor or crush the afflicted at the gate…”3
And why does he say that? He gives us the answer in verse

  1. There he writes, “The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord is maker of them all.”
    While there may be some superficial differences between those who are wealthy and those who
    are poor, Proverbs reminds us that, at our core, we are really not so much different from one another as
    we may appear to be. And that is because God created us all—the rich, the poor and everyone in
    between. Therefore we are to treat one another with the respect due to all of those who carry the
    imago dei—which is Latin for “the image of God”—that we are taught that all of us carry in Genesis
    1:26-27.
    And then the writer of Proverbs takes it a step further. He says that those who take advantage
    of the poor will reap the dire consequences of their actions. In verse 23, he writes, “The Lord pleads
    [the] case [of the poor] and despoils of life those who despoil them.” The word translated here as
    “despoil” is the Hebrew word kaw-bah’. It is a word that means “to cover” or “to defraud another.” In
    most other places in the Old Testament, the word is simply translated as “to rob.” So what the verse
    says is that, those who take advantage of the poor and rob them of what is rightfully theirs, will face the
    same treatment at the hands of the Lord. The Lord himself will rob them of life in the same way…
    Today’s passage begins with the idea that a good reputation is priceless—that it is worth more
    than silver or gold. I would like for us to consider for the next few minutes how one acquires a good
    reputation…and how that impacts our relationship with God…
    It seems to me that a good reputation is made up of two things: it is informed by WHO we are…
    and by what we do. That is particularly true in actions that other people observe us doing…
    A good reputation is an outgrowth of who we are inside. In our last time together, we spent our
    time thinking about the teachings in the book of James. As you may recall, James is mostly concerned
    that our actions be a reflection of the faith that we carry inside. The predominant theme in the book of
    James is that “Faith without works is dead.” He is not discounting the role of faith in the life of the Spirit
    by that statement. Far from it. Indeed, according to our Lord Jesus, the motives that guide our good
    deeds are just as important as the deeds themselves. James is emphasizing that our faith in Christ
    should result in good works…
    Our Lord Jesus made this concept very clear throughout his teaching. One such instance of many
    can be found in Matthew 23. Jesus is teaching the crowds in the city of Jerusalem. Among the people
    who are listening to him are the Pharisees. The Pharisees had a very good reputation among the people.
    They were known for their strict observance of the Old Testament law. They were known for their good
    works and their devotion to God in the realms of prayer and of good deeds. But Jesus found their
    devotion to God lacking. He was not fooled by their actions. The inward attitudes of the Pharisees were

3
In Old Testament days, the gate of the city was the place where court was held and where official, legally binding
contracts were made and ratified.
P a g e | 4
all wrong. In Matthew 23:26-27, he called the Pharisees out for their hypocrisy when he declared to
them and to the crowd that was listening,
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which
look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In
the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous…but on the inside you are full of
hypocrisy and wickedness.
In order to have a good reputation that is pleasing to God, our inward attitudes must be right.
We cannot expect God to be pleased with us if our attitude toward serving God and others is corrupted
by a sense of self-seeking. You know—attitudes such as “What am I going to get out of it?” Good deeds
that are done with that kind of attitude are nothing more than hypocrisy and wickedness… according to
Jesus. And having a good reputation with others—but not with God—is an exercise in futility. What
would be the point of being well-thought of by others—but of not being pleasing to God? How would
that be beneficial in the grand scheme of things?
The other thing that builds a good reputation is the doing of righteous deeds—outward
expressions of our devotion to God. I will say at the outset that this is a slippery business. Our reputation
is often built upon what others see us do and say. Others can only think of you in positive terms when
they witness and experience positive things from you. But on the other hand, doing Godly actions
primarily for show in front of others is unworthy of a child of God.
Again, our Lord Jesus gives us the teaching. In Matthew 6, Jesus warns us about doing good
works in the presence of others for show. He says that, if you do your good works in the sight of others
and receive praise from people, then that is all the reward that you can expect. In Matthew 6, he says,
Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have
no reward from your Father in heaven…But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know
what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is
done in secret, will reward you…And when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your
Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
It must be admitted that Jesus’ teaching here seems to be at odds with what he spoke earlier in
that same “Sermon on the Mount.” In Matthew 5: 14-16, Jesus taught his disciples about what effect
their lives as believers should have on those around them. He said,
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do people light a lamp and put it
under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same
way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and praise your Father in
heaven.
P a g e | 5
In that passage, it seems that Jesus is telling his disciples that they are to do their good works so
that others can see them. That is because, when other people see those good works, then God will get
the glory for how he is working in the lives of his people.
On the surface, it seems to be a bit of a contradiction, doesn’t it? How can we do our good
deeds in private so as to not be seen by others…and yet do them openly, so that others can see them
and God can be praised? Good question…
I think that the secret is to be found in something that we discussed earlier. When our good
deeds—the very things that build a good reputation among others—are done out of a sense of who
we are, then God is pleased. The point is not simply to do good deeds. You can do good deeds which
appear on the outside to be Godly…and not have an ounce of the love of God in your heart. That was
the error of the Pharisees. And it must be said that there are still plenty of people in our world today
who fall prey to that same illusion. They believe that if they are known for adhering to a strict list of do’s
and don’ts, then that is enough…but but Jesus teaches that it is not…
Instead, one of the goals of the life of faith is to get to the place in our lives where—yes—we do
good deeds…but we do them as an overflow of God’s love and joy which flows from our hearts. Love
and joy that are a part of who we are…of who the Holy Spirit is transforming us to be…Compassion that
is informed by the love of Jesus that extends to all. And when love, and joy, and compassion for others
spills out of our lives and onto others, then the good reputation that the writer of Proverbs commends
to us will certainly be ours. It will be a reputation that money cannot buy. And it will be a reputation
that pleases God by what we say…and think…and do…In reality, life doesn’t get much better than that…
To God alone be the glory! Amen