“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2
Don’t brag on yourself. Don’t boast. Don’t talk yourself up. Don’t be cocky, smug, arrogant, or proud. These are all things I’ve learned from strong, confident men as I was growing up. I was always taught to let my work do the talking, to perform my hardest and let the accolades figure themselves out.
My wrestling coaches always punished us for bragging and being cocky. These were strong, manly men; they knew what it’s like to work hard and saw lots of success of their own. They never talked themselves up- they never had to. If you’re the real deal, you don’t need to praise yourself.
I’ve learned this lesson again and again, but for some reason it doesn’t stick. I still puff my chest out, I still brag on myself, I’m still cocky and self serving and boast on my blog posts and the number of views I get. This proverb is ever applicable. “Don’t Praise yourself, Parker!”
But what is praise? Is it synonymous with worship? If so then we should never be the recipient of praise. So, what is praise?
Bruce K. Waltke helps us define praise in this proverb, “Praise (hillēl) denotes an interpersonal exchange in which one makes a favorable judgement about another’s virtue and expresses his admiration by extolling the person and his sublime attributes (s) (cf. 20:14). The one praising does so because he feels that it is the right and proper thing to do and/or the celebration heretofore has been insufficient.” (The Book of Proverbs Chapters 15-31, Bruce K. Waltke, pg. 373.)
So according to Waltke, praise is not synonymous with worship and is thus an acceptable form of adoration between persons. But as this proverb explains, praise is an unacceptable form of adoration when coming from yourself and terminating on yourself, i.e. don’t brag on yourself!
Waltke goes on to say, “Since the proverbs aim for piety on the vertical axis and social success on the horizontal axis, it can be inferred that self-praise is unfitting because it destroys one’s relationships with God and with people. The LORD detests the proud, and society dislikes and discounts the boaster. Instead of exalting the boaster, self-praise diminishes one’s status and suggests that one is proud, feels undervalued, and is socially insecure. The admonition protects one against self-deception and flattery.” (ibid., pg. 374).
God is giving us practical wisdom in this proverb; God detests the proud and people have a natural disdain for arrogance. God warns us that it’s foolish to incur disdain from both Him and our fellow man and pride earns us both. If we’re wise, we’ll heed God’s warning.
But it’d be a shame for us to learn this practical wisdom without recognizing the fount of all wisdom, Jesus Christ. Another Proverbs commentator, Tremper Longman III, reminds us of this point, “The sages direct their students not to take it upon themselves to boast, but rather to let others do it. Such teaching shows that the praise of others is something that can be desired. In the NT Paul has extensive teaching about boasting, and the most important point that he makes is that God’s people should boast in the Lord.” (Proverbs, Tremper Longman III, pg. 475). Here, Longman is alluding to 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 where Paul quotes Jeremiah 9:23-24,
For Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
And likewise, in 2 Corinthians 10:17-18 Paul says,
“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
If we’re going to boast, let us boast in this, that we know the Lord! That we are known by the Lord, and that God has chosen us- despite the fact that we weren’t qualified or wise. We get to know Wisdom personified, that is Jesus Christ. He’s called us to follow him. But before we get puffed up, remember that Christ didn’t choose us because we are awesome, he chose us because he’s awesome!
Instead of boasting in order to build our egos, if we’re going to boast, let us boast in Christ!
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