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How To Handle Personal Praise

What parents in their right minds would let their college freshman spend Spring Break in New Orleans? (“Let’s talk about this!”) Yet our son Matthew and his friends were not going there to party, but to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina—more than six months after its devastating landfall. Matthew couldn’t begin to describe the damage, exacerbated by months of rotting and infestation of vermin, but the most revolting thing they encountered were the insides of refrigerators left untouched for over half a year, and with no power source to cool and preserve even the most imperishable of contents. Can we even begin to imagine? These common kitchen appliances are not meant to be the end point of the cycle from harvest to consumption, but a brief stop along the way. Like streams of water or electrical circuitry, they are means of movement.

In a way, we, too, are designed to be conduits—God fashioned us to be conduits of praise, not its endpoint. “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness,”1 celebrated the psalmist. He understood the temptation to accept from others glory that is not rightfully ours—to let personal praise stagnate in our soul instead of flowing through us to God, where it belongs. “The crucible for silver, and the furnace for gold, but a man is tested by the praise he receives,”2 wrote Solomon. He understood, as well, our tendency to let praise spoil into pride. For as Paul says, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”3

Then how do we resist the temptation to harbor praise that ultimately belongs to God who blesses us in the first place? How do we keep pride from rotting and spoiling inside? Paul, again: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”4 We are called to good works,5 yes, but not for our own praise, rather as Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”6 We were created for God’s glory7; it is in Him that all praise rightfully resides. Then “let the one who boasts boast in the Lord”8 —may we humbly and gladly pass along to Him the glory He deserves.

Father, may I never accept glory that belongs to You, but forever be a conduit through whom praise flows to its rightful place—Your throne. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 Psalm 115:1
2 Proverbs 27:21
3 1 Corinthians 4:7
4 1 Corinthians 10:31
5 Ephesians 2:10
6 Matthew 5:16
7 Isaiah 43:6-7
8 1 Corinthians 1:31

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