“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by their praise.”
Proverbs 27:21 (NIV)
Throughout our lives we face all kinds of tests: school tests that measure how much we understand a particular subject, certification tests that assess whether we have mastered a knowledge set for a given career field, medical tests that determine the condition of our health, and everyday situations that test our patience and integrity. Even praise is a test, according to Solomon. Proverbs 27:21 tells us that “people are tested by their praise.”
The word test has many definitions but oxforddictionaries.com gives us two of them that apply to this verse:
“A procedure intended to establish the quality, performance, or reliability of something, especially before it is taken into widespread use.”
“An event or situation that reveals the strength or quality of someone or something by putting them under strain.”
While the process is different in these two definitions, they both have an ultimate focus on quality. Proverbs 27:21 compares the crucible and furnace for silver and gold to praise for people. Just as the precious metals of silver and gold are heated to a high temperature in a crucible or furnace to reveal their impurities and increase their quality, praise is a way of seeing what a person is made of by showing what’s underneath the surface in his or her character.
How do you handle praise? When you receive praise, do you take all the credit? Do you continually expect praise from others? Do you build your life around receiving praise? Or, do you deflect praise, never deeming yourself worthy? Do you feel you can only give praise and never receive it graciously? All of these reactions reveal a pride problem, whether it is arrogance or false humility. Rewire your thinking and remember that every good thing comes from God, and he is the one thing upon which we should boast.
“This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
or the powerful boast in their power,
or the rich boast in their riches.
But those who wish to boast
should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
who demonstrates unfailing love
and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NLT)
When we receive praise, we should graciously say, “Thank you” and give credit to the Lord. Praise is a way we can encourage each other, so be grateful for the praise you receive. But, also remember that praise is a gift, and it is not something you are owed or should expect to receive. Paul gives us good advice about this in Romans 12:3:
“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” (NLT)
Beautiful polished silver and gold don’t just happen; they have to be tested in the fire for the impurities to be removed. Our character is the same way, and praise is just one of the tests to help us refine our character. As you study God’s word and daily apply it to your life, press on through the refinement process. Your character will shine.