According to Prov 27:21, The purity of silver and gold can be tested in a crucible, but a man is tested by his reaction to men’s praise.
Why might that be? The subtlety of self-pride can creep in. If I receive a praise, reward, or award for something I have done, I might forget that all the factors that work together to make things possible require God’s grace. For example, if I am able to sing, God’s grace prevented pharyngitis, provided the mind to remember the lyrics, and produce those sounds through the collaboration of the good condition of the lungs, larynx, chest, head, tongue, teeth, diaphragm, nose, and palate. He gives even an inclination to the listener to appreciate the sound. The life and breath that are there for one more day are also by His grace. For in him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28a).
Our lives, abilities, and giftings are given to us to give glory to our Maker. Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made (Isaiah 43:7).
Whatever you and I have are ours by His grace through circumstances and people. The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him(Psalm 24:1). 1Corinthians 3 says: 18 Don’t fool yourself. If some of you think they are worldly-wise, then they should become foolish so that they can become wise…<If you think you are so smart, sometimes you need to lay down your smartness in order to understand the wisdom of God> … 21 So then, no one should brag about human beings. Everything belongs to you.
There is a human tendency that when we are needy, we understand our dependence on the Lord and seek Him constantly, ask (for what we desire) as commanded. But when what is asked for has been received, praise, rewards, and awards can provide highs that turn the heart away from the Lord when it forgets that it is the Lord’s favor/grace that made things possible. The former God-dependence turns to self/flesh-dependence. This is depicted in Ecclesiastes 4:13 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning. Maybe that’s why poverty is a grace because it makes one God-seeking and therefore wise. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:3)
Jeremiah 17:5-8 points out that we are blessed when we depend on God and cursed when we depend on flesh, even our own. Verse 9a tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Proverbs 4:23 tells us the most important thing to guard: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. When we don’t keep our hearts guarded, our thinking can get distorted and we can come up with ways to justify our thoughts. God’s Word is our measuring line or standard to see ourselves in the precious way that he appreciates us even in our weakness but also in the way in which we fall short of His glory and have nothing to boast about in ourselves except knowing him. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God (1Cor 1:28-29).
23 This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD (Jer 9:23-25).
A severe example of a person who thought that it was all about him instead of being all about God, was Herod in Acts 12:23 21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. Another one is King Nebuchadnezzar whose power made him proud: But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory (Daniel 5: 20).
What can we do when we receive praise? We can humbly thank and praise God for His grace and remember that we have been given giftings not for our own glory but for his. Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness (Psalm 115:1).
Perhaps this picture can illustrate how unbecoming it is when we let praise get to our heads and make us big-headed.
SONG: ALL ABOUT YOU