Proverbs 27b

 

The Power of Praise.

“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold. But a person is tested by being praised.” – Proverbs 27:21 NLT

Praise is a powerful commodity. It should be used sparingly and wisely. Too much praise can cause pride. Too little praise can result in resentment and bitterness. Everyone needs to hear words of praise on occasion, but when it is given it must be sincere and well-deserved. False praise is nothing more than lying. Praising someone who has an addiction for praise can be destructive. Failing to praise someone who is deserving of praise is ultimately selfish and like stealing what is rightfully theirs.

The writer of Proverbs 27 knows the power of praise and warns us about it. Like fire, praise can do much good, but it can also be dangerous if treated flippantly or foolishly. He warns us against self-praise, which is basically bragging. Nobody likes to be around a braggart, yet we all do it at times. We want others to know our accomplishments and to be impressed with our exploits. Self-praise can be as simple as hanging all your diplomas on the wall of your office for everyone to see. If it is meant to impress, it is self-praise, and self-praise is never attractive. Self-praise can be as innocent as fishing for compliments by chumming the water with stories of your good deeds. It is manipulative and unattractive to watch. We are warned, “Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth – a stranger, not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2 NLT). One of the hard realities of life is that the lack of praise we experience may be the result of us having done nothing praise-worthy. But it could also be that any praises we receive are meant for the ears of others. Those praising us may be telling our boss or supervisor. They may be praising us to their friends. We may not hear it, but we benefit from their praise just the same. If we HAVE to hear praise to benefit from it, our motivation needs to be questioned.

How we receive praise reveals much about us. “A person is tested by being praised” (Proverbs 27:21b NLT). In other words, if praise tends to make us proud and puffed up, it is exposing a heart problem. It is showing us that we have a character flaw. We crave praise. We are addicted to praise. We are motivated by praise. If we don’t receive it, we lose our motivation. It is like an actor who loses his love of acting because he fails to receive the applause he thinks he so richly deserves. At that point, he is acting for the applause, not because he loves to act. If we require the praise of others to make us do what God requires of us, we are doing it for the wrong reason. Doing good deeds in exchange for praise turns our efforts into nothing more than a job. Energy expended in exchange for pay. But we are to do good deeds out of the motivation to honor God. Our efforts are for His praise and glory, not our own. Any praise we receive is an extra-added bonus. It is to be like a sacrifice. Those who brought sacrifices to God did not receive applause from the crowd standing around them. Their effort was what was expected of them as servants of God.

But praise is not a sin. It is a vital part of doing life together as human beings. The key is that praise is something that is given. It is not to be sought. It is like a commodity we have that is to be shared with others, sparingly and wisely. Too much praise, like too much honey, can make the other person sick. Praising a child for anything and everything can end up making them proud, arrogant, and addicted to praise. When they grow up and don’t receive it, they will become angry, resentful, and begin to question their own self-worth. Too little praise can be destructive too. Withholding praise is nothing short of cruel. It is like refusing to pay an employee for a job well done. But for some of us words of praise are difficult to say. Maybe it’s because we failed to hear them as children. We are unaccustomed to hearing them. But words of encouragement can be a gift we give to those in need. They can be like water to a thirsty man – refreshing, reinvigorating, and re-energizing. It takes wisdom to know how to use praise effectively. False praise is disingenuous and deceitful. It’s nothing short of flattery designed to benefit the one giving it. False praise is ultimately self-centered.

Praise is powerful. It has the potential for both harm and for doing good. It is to be used wisely can carefully. It is not something to be sought, but to be given. The praises of men should never be our motivation. Seeking to please God is what should drive us, inspire us and motivate us. The praises of men, when given, are to be received humbly, gratefully and with an understanding that the one who really deserves credit for them is God.

Father, only You really deserve praise. Any good deeds I do are the result of Your Spirit within me, motivating and empowering me. Nothing I do that is worthy of praise is the result of my own self-effort. I can do nothing worthwhile without You. Help me to give praise rather than seek it. But help me to give praise sparingly and with a focus on the heart behind the effort. I want to praise others for what is motivating their behavior, not the behavior itself. Give me the capacity to use praise wisely. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

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