“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” Proverbs 27:21 (NLT)
Okay, I thought, when I recently read this Scripture. That’s interesting. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this passage but I can tell you this was the first time I stopped and thought about it.
I like praise. Doesn’t everyone? It’s something we’ve earned, right? Shouldn’t we enjoy it? So why are we tested by it?
Pondering this over a couple of days helped me to see the test. More specifically, where I’ve failed it.
People have praised my writing. They’ve praised classes I’ve taught, the coaching and mentoring I’ve done, the encouragement and advice I’ve given. In other jobs and ministry service, I’ve received praise for my work and gifts and talents. And I enjoyed hearing it.
The test is how did receiving this praise affect me?
Sometimes, not so good.
Why? Because I took it personal. It was about me and how good I was at some things—which made it easy to overlook those things I wasn’t so good at.
One of the early lessons I learned when I began writing was not to take criticism personally, to develop a thick skin so I could receive critical feedback and use it to improve my writing.
The same principle applies to receiving praise. When I make it personal, praise loses its power to help me grow. The only thing that grows is my ego. Which actually leads to growth in such warm and fuzzy areas as pride and arrogance.
The test of praise shows me where I’ve failed in humility and keeping myself teachable. The test shows where I, at times, develop the attitude that I’m right. All the time. And I’m better than others. All the time.
Through this verse, I re-learned that any talents or abilities or gifts I have are not mine. They’re from God to help others as he directs me. They’re not to boost me up a ladder. They’re for me to show someone else how to climb that ladder.
It’s nice to have my ego stroked. It’s better if I deflect the praise to him who made it possible.
Keith Moore, one of the most humble ministers I have ever met, pastors Faith Life Church in Branson, MO. Someone once praised him for some ministry work he had done. His response? “If it was good, it was God. If it was bad, it was me.”
Any good I do in this life I do because God gave me the talent and the wisdom to do it. He deserves the praise.
He doesn’t deserve the blame if I mess it up. And if it’s messed up, it’s because I missed him somewhere.
Have you ever thought about the power of praise? How does praise affect you?