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A Person Is Tested By Being Praised
Proverbs 27:21 How we offer and react to praise says a lot about our level of pride or humility
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“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.”
Proverbs 27:21 NLT
Today’s advice from the Book of Proverbs is timeless and useful in our self-centered age. Solomon starts this verse with imagery of the refining of silver and gold, something that would have been familiar to many people of his time. Applying heat from a fire to refining pots full of silver or gold brought the dross (a useless waste product) to the surface where it could be ladled off and discarded. If the silver or gold was of high purity, there was very little dross.
Solomon knew that people are valued not by fire, but by what is said about them by others. In our human pride, we all think more of ourselves than we probably should, so that’s not a reliable measure of a person’s worth. However, asking a varied group of people their opinion of another person often gives us a better picture of how they are valued by their peers.
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Bible commentator G. Campbell Morgan interpreted this proverb in three ways:
“First, that you may know what a man is by the way he bears praise. Second, that you may know what a man is by the things he praises. Third, that a man who treats praise as the fining pot treats silver and gold purges it of unworthy substance.”1
Let’s look at these three interpretations. For the first, how a person reacts to praise can tell us a lot about how much self-pride they have. We all know those people who think a lot of themselves, and giving a compliment is like inflating a balloon with a bicycle pump; you can almost see them puffing up with pride! On the other hand, there are others who obviously have a hard time taking a compliment and seem uncomfortable when they are praised. The middle ground is what we should strive for.
The second interpretation looks at how we praise things and people. If we lavish our praise on material things, both those that we own and those that we envy, then we’re placing too much emphasis on earthly things that have no eternal worth. Offering honest praise to another person for their skill or abilities is showing love, while throwing out kudos to the undeserving is — in the Scriptural vernacular — bearing false witness.
Finally, Morgan describes people who “treat praise as the fining pot treats silver and gold”, accepting praise gracefully while still realizing that there is still room for continual improvement. Living the Christian life, we should always strive to be this type of person.
What kind of person are you? How do you react to praise from others? Are you filled with pride or humility? Considering this question is a worthwhile self-examination!
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
God, I pray that You help me be free from the desire for the praise of others. Let me be content with how You alone perceive me. When someone offers me their praise, let me pass it along to You, for You alone deserve the praise for anything good in me. AMEN.
Morgan, G. Campbell "An Exposition of the Whole Bible" (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Revell, 1959)