I’ve been reading in Proverbs lately, and came across a couple of cool ones in chapter 27:
For the man who loves to stay at home:
Like a bird that strays from the nest is a man who strays from his home. Proverbs 27:8
A warning for those overly-cheerful morning people:
If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse. Proverbs 27: 14
And later in the same chapter, I came across this interesting proverb:
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives. Proverbs 27:21
I would have expected that a man is tested by adversity, not by success … it made me stop and think for a little while. How do I react when I am praised?
I suppose I am of two minds about it. One part of me laps it up like a man dying of thirst in the desert. Like many people, I desire the approval and accolades of my fellow man, however I might try to hide or suppress it. Another part of me is embarrassed and recoils from praise, since generally the praise is more than I deserve. More often than not, I am praised for the small or easy things I do, while the larger and more difficult things are overlooked. This has the benefit of giving me a healthily skeptical attitude toward the approval of others.
One way a man could fail a test of praise would be to puff himself up. Do I love the praise of others so much that I fail to act in proper humility? Or one could take credit where credit was not due … if I am praised for someone else’s accomplishment, do I shift the praise to the proper target? A man could also be ungracious … rejecting praise so vehemently as to offend a well-meaning person. We mistrust and despise people who allow their desire for fame to drive them, and we hold in contempt a man who steals honor from another.
Ultimately praise of men is a lot like money … there is nothing wrong with a little praise or a little wealth … but a man who makes one or the other his god cannot be trusted to do the right thing. As a child of God, I should seek His approval … I should be driven by a desire for His praise.
One of the things that has discouraged me about my job over the past year is that there is little opportunity for pats on the back or accolades. If I do my job well, software rolls out without any negative fanfare, and the credit accrues to the developers who built it. The only time I come into the spotlight is if I do my job poorly and a major defect is found in the software.
I am reminded of the scriptural injunction to work as though I was working directly for God himself:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24