Giving and Receiving Commendation

We are all guilty of having given unjust praise to men and having received unjust praise from men.

Like its counterpart, criticism, commendation interacts with pride and is easily misstated or misapplied. Thankfully, we are not left to our own reasoning capacity to sift through all of the attendant difficulties. As with every other important part of our lives, Scripture has much to teach us about how to give and receive commendation. 

 

Criticism is far and away one of the most difficult features of life in this fallen world. Two things in particular complicate the practice of giving and receiving criticism. Pride revolts when others point out areas of our lives in which change may be needed; and, many who raise criticisms are themselves hypercritical individuals–often overstating or misstating their assessment about an aspect of another’s life. Accordingly, the subject of giving and receiving criticism must be approached with the utmost care. While considerably less burdensome to the mind, the subject of giving and receiving commendation is an equally challenging part of life. Like its counterpart, criticism, commendation interacts with pride and is easily misstated or misapplied. Thankfully, we are not left to our own reasoning capacity to sift through all of the attendant difficulties. As with every other important part of our lives, Scripture has much to teach us about how to give and receive commendation.

1. We must not praise ourselves. Commendation is meant to be an external act of kindness. God does not permit us to praise ourselves. This ought to be self-evident, but our propensity to do otherwise shows that it is not. For this reason, the Proverbs tell us, “Let another praise you and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Prov. 27:2).

2. We must not seek our own praise. Just as Jesus said that looking with lustful intent is tantamount to adultery, so fishing for praise is coextensive to self-adulation. Our flesh loves praise and commendation. We must guard against being desirous of the praises of others. The Scriptures give us an exceedingly straightforward approach to praise–namely, we are to hold the praise of man with the least amount of significance possible and the praise that is from God in the highest possible esteem. The Apostle Paul emphasized this in Romans 2, where he explained that the true people of God are those whose “praise is not from man but from God” (Rom. 2:29). Jesus exemplified this principle for us in His responses to praise during His earthly ministry. If anyone was deserving of praise it was the sinless Son of God incarnate. Men often praised the Savior for His mighty works and words. However, he never welcomed the misused praise of men. When the rich, young, ruler commended Jesus for being a “good teacher,” Jesus didn’t welcome his commendation. Instead, Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” Jesus was not denying His own divine nature; rather, He was helping this man see that he thought more highly of men than he ought to think–and, specifically, that he thought more highly of himself than he ought to think. It would do us good to come to terms with the fact that most praise, while well-intentioned, is usually misplaced or misapplied by men to men. By nature, we love the praise of men because it feeds our pride. Jesus summarized the great problem that sinful men have with seeking praise from men rather than from God when He told the unbelieving Jews, “I do not receive glory from people…you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:41, 44).

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