Praise from Others

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”

- Proverbs 27:2

Nobody likes a bragger. The one who is always boasting of his accomplishments, reminding people of his latest successes, never letting us forget his past victories. Such a person dominates every conversation with news of the great things that he has done. He is addicted to praise, and if no one else gives it to him, he will freely praise himself.

Why is it that we stay away from those who are proud? Part of the answer has to be that we are made in the image of God, who commends the virtue of humility (1 Peter 5:5). If we would please the Lord, we must cultivate a humble spirit, and as today’s passage indicates, that involves allowing others to praise us. Wise people do not praise themselves; they let others extol their virtues (Prov. 27:2).

In calling us not to praise ourselves, Proverbs 27:2 is not eschewing all forms of self-promotion. After all, Scripture elsewhere teaches that we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought (Rom. 12:3). The qualifier “more highly than we ought” is key. Paul does not say that we cannot think of ourselves highly in any sense of the word; rather, we are to think of ourselves highly insofar as it is appropriate. This is not a commendation of pride but a call for sober self-assessment. In other words, it is not inherently wrong to tell others what our talents and successes are. Some situations—such as a job interview—actually call for us to be forthright about what we are able to do. Isaiah himself even stepped forward when God was looking for a willing and able man to proclaim His truth to the old covenant community (Isa. 6:8). The problem comes when we are the only subject in our conversations with others, when we go out of our way to make sure that everyone knows where we have succeeded regardless of whether they have asked us.

The Lord lifts up the humble” (Ps. 147:6). He is quick to come to the aid of those who are not proud in spirit but are willing servants of others. If I am devoted to the praise of myself, then I show others who the really important person in my life is. That idolatry will create friction in my interpersonal relationships. More importantly, it will disrupt my relationship with God. Those whom the Lord saves must reject any hint of self-trust and rely only on Him for salvation. Men and women who are devoted to self-exaltation show that they have not really given up their self-trust. They have not really learned what it means to lean only on the Lord for redemption.

Coram Deo

Humility and meekness are marks of the true believer in Christ. We dare not confuse these virtues with weakness, for humble believers are strong in Christ. These virtues, instead, reflect an honest appraisal of one’s talents and weaknesses. They lead us to rely on other people when it is necessary, and they encourage us to continually cast all of our cares and needs upon the Lord. Are you humbling yourself before the Lord this day?

Passages for Further Study

Proverbs 15:25
Ecclesiastes 7:8
Jeremiah 50:31
Luke 1:46–55

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