Character is moral and ethical strength, or as someone has defined it — it is who we really are when no one is looking. Reputation is other people’s evaluation of our character. Although the words, character and reputation, do not occur in Proverbs 3:1-12, they are certainly concepts that underlie this speech to a young man.
The concern for reputation is found elsewhere in scripture. Proverbs 22:1 reads, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (ESV). In this speech, the young person who follows this teaching will gain a good reputation: “So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:4, NASB). Notice that the teacher’s concerns go deeper than what people think of me. He desires a good reputation before God, who knows who we really are when no one is looking.
The path of character is the means to this good reputation before God and man. The law is not to be forgotten, but to be obeyed from the heart (3:1). Mercy and truth are also to be written on the heart (3:3). The person of good character is directed by inner principles and not by the outside influences of circumstances and pressures from other people.
The person of character is also directed by his or her relationship to God. God is to be trusted (3:5). Direction for life is to be learned from God. We are not trust our own moral sense or as Proverbs puts it — “not lean on our own understanding” or “be wise in our own eyes” (3:5, 7). We need our consciences trained by God. God is to be feared or reverenced (3:7), and we must depart from evil. This requires humility on our part so that we will be guided and corrected by God.
Character also has its rewards. Proverbs 3:1-12 pictures length of days, peace, health, strength, and blessings coming upon the person who follows these instructions. Yet even though there will be blessings for the life of character, this section also closes with a reminder that there can also be chastening: “for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12, ESV). Whatever the circumstances, the person of character must follow the law written on the heart and trust God from the heart.
Here in Proverbs 3:1-12 is the path to good character and reputation.