As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.
Silver and gold were identified, separated, and refined from impurities in a fining pot or furnace. There the trial of great heat separated base metals from precious metals. The end result of the hot trial left the pure metals that were ready to be used for fine jewelry.
Praise is a fiery trial for men (Pr 17:3). If a man has a base or weak character, praise will make him proud, conceited, and overbearing. If a man has precious or strong character, it will not affect him at all. He will continue in his modest and humble course, giving glory to God and being thankful for any good that he might be able to do toward others.
Praise creates a severe test of your soul. Praise will reveal what kind of person you are. It will prove a spirit of godly humility or a spirit of devilish pride. Do you crave the praise of men? Does it greatly warm your soul? Or do you know full well it is not true! Do you fear it? Do you well understand that anything you are or have is a gift from God?
Reader, what do you have that was not given to you? If what you have was a gift from Another, how can you be proud or take glory in it, as if it were your accomplishment? The only difference between you and others is God’s gift (I Cor 4:7). Give Him thanks!
Those taught by the Spirit of Christ will recognize the great danger in praise. We should carry a sign saying we are flammable, to keep the heat or spark of praise at a distance. We should dread praise more than rebuke, for the one bears the good fruits of humility and instruction, and the other may work our ruin by the most pleasant poison! A seed of pride lies active in the most sanctified soul, and just a little praise can be enough to water it into rapid and extensive growth that will choke your fruitfulness and bring judgment.
We have already been warned about praise in this chapter. First, we were told to let others praise us, and not be seeking to get the word out ourselves (Pr 2)! Second, we were told that rebuke and wounds from friends are better than love and kisses of flattering enemies (Pr 5-6). Then we were taught to ignore excessive praise and flattery, for it is more like a curse (Pr 14). Do you understand and practice each of these warnings about praise?
David, after killing Goliath, could have written his own ticket! Public opinion would have secured him the throne; after all, he had been anointed king (I Sam 16:1-13). But he told Saul he was just a son of Saul’s servant, Jesse the Bethlehemite (I Sam 17:58)! When offered his daughters, he thought the honor too high to consider (I Sam 18:17-24). He was totally gracious in spite of universal adulation and won Jonathan’s heart (Pr 22:11).
But Saul was envious his praise was less than David’s (I Sam 18:6-11); and Absalom, use to praise, used praise to steal the hearts of weak men in Israel (II Sam 14:25; 15:1-6). Proud Herod should have fallen on his face to rebuke lying lobbyists (Acts 12:20-23). Diotrephes earned the severe rebuke of John for loving the preeminence (III John 1:9).
Time would fail to write of the golden character of Joseph, Daniel, and the apostles of our Lord Jesus. The first two did not let exalted offices affect their modest and holy spirits; and the latter group, who with miraculous power to heal and resurrect were praised as gods, strongly rejected such attention (Acts 3:11-12; 10:25-26; 14:11-18; 28:1-6).
Due to the nature of a bishop’s office, a candidate cannot be a novice, lest the public esteem of the work (I Thess 5:13) become a snare to his soul (I Tim 3:6). Satan was puffed up by his exalted position and aspired to be like the most High (Is 14:9-15), and he is a perpetual example of the danger of pride and the Lord’s severe condemnation of it.
But contrast our blessed Lord, who left the throne of glory to become a servant among mortals (Phil 2:5-8). He even requested that His glorious miracles not be spread abroad, for He was not the least interested in the praise of men (Mark 7:36). The wise man Agur counted himself horribly brutish (Pr 30:1-3). Solomon thought himself a child (I Kgs 3:7). And the greatest apostle considered himself less than the least of all saints (Eph 3:8).
Prepare yourself ahead of time, dear reader, so that when the deadly elixir is offered, you may politely and deftly direct the attention to heaven, from where all blessings descend.