Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.
Do not talk about yourself. Avoid it as much as possible. Though easy to fall into, talking about you is not gracious at all. You will not grow in favor with God or men doing it.
Do not talk about your job, your health, your family, your house, or anything else that is yours. Think and talk about others and their things. Ask questions about them, rather than telling about your situation, difficulties, abilities, blessings, or honors. Too much honey will make a person sick, and self-promotion or self-praise is also sickening (Pr 25:27).
Here is a key difference between gracious and odious people. An odious woman is a master at slipping in her opinions, experiences, expertise, and her presumed wisdom. But a gracious woman never talks about herself. She is always inquiring sincerely about the welfare of others. It is God’s praise of you that counts, not your own (II Cor 10:18).
Odious people are hurt if you do not praise them enough, ask enough questions about them, and listen intently for them to tell you about their lives. This incredible selfishness is tiring and revolting. But gracious persons, neglecting themselves and their things, are always inquiring about others, always pursuing them, and always praising them.
Paul put it this way, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil 2:3-4). He then described Jesus dying in this world as the best case of humility and God’s eventual honor (Phil 2:5-11).
True love is defined perfectly in I Cor 13:4-7, where fifteen wonderful phrases define charity. These four phrases relate to this proverb: “vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, and seeketh not her own.” Vaunting yourself is boasting; being puffed up is conceited thinking; not behaving unseemly is gracious and courteous conduct; and seeking not your own is being more interested in the things of others.
Jesus taught, “When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee” (Luke 14:8-10; Pr 25:6-7).
Self-praise, or boasting, is only justified in extreme situations of defending an office or the Christian gospel. Moses defended himself against the rebellious Korah and princes of Israel (Nu 16:15). Samuel justified himself before Israel to condemn them for seeking a king (I Sam 12:1-5), and Paul boasted extensively to Corinth to defend his apostolic office (II Co 11:10-12; 12:11). But Job was wrong, for he had no need for it (Job 32:1-2).
This proverb does not apply to resumes or interviews; employers need to know your abilities, training, and accomplishments. When David applied for a big job, he went into detail about his feats (I Sam 17:33-37). Elihu knew he should tell his superior knowledge to the older Job and his three friends, giving God the glory (Job 32:6-14; 36:1-5). Daniel and three friends rightly impressed Nebuchadnezzar in their interview (Dan 1:17-21).
A good name is a noble goal, if done for the right motives (Pr 22:1). But self-promotion is despicable and brings shame. Safety from this sin requires you to examine yourself by the perception and opinions of others. It does not matter if you think you are not a self-promoter, if others think you are! And this is especially true, if the Lord thinks you are!
Deserving the praise of men is one thing, but trying to get it by praising yourself is disgusting. Timothy and Demetrius had great reputations, and they deserved to be praised (II Cor 8:18; III Jn 1:12). But one mark these men had, you can be sure, was a total lack of self-promotion. You should desire such a noble reputation, but the only righteous way to obtain the praise of others is to earn it. If men are not praising you, there is a reason!
Avoid “back door compliments,” which are weak attempts to credit God for your abilities or accomplishments. The focus is more on you than on the Lord. American athletes are famous for this one, “I want to thank God for giving me so many abilities!” The bottom line is indirect self-praise, which is neither glorifying to God nor encouraging to men.
Do you know to avoid “I” in correspondence as much as possible? Must you be called by your job title or educational title, even if earned? Jesus and Elihu warned against such public pride, especially religious titles (Matt 23:5-12; Job 32:21-22). If all speech comes from thoughts in the heart, can you stop thinking about yourself so much (Matt 12:34)?
Do you talk too much about yourself? Are you gracious or odious? How can you tell? Easy! How much do others want to be around you? How many friends do you have? Is your company sought or avoided? This measure is painful, but it is accurate. If you show real Christianity by sincere interest in others far above yourself, they will flock to you.
Parent, teach your children the wisdom and virtue of not talking about themselves. Teach them the grace of inquiring about others as much as possible. You will do more for their success before God and men than pursuing the top score in any academic course. You can easily give them assignments to ask questions and learn as much as possible about others.
God’s religion has two commands – love God and love your neighbor. What is missing? You are missing! If you can learn to love others as much as you love yourself, you will be great before God and men. But this generation is perverse enough to actually teach the destructive heresies of self-love and self-esteem. No wonder they praise themselves!
Jesus never raised His voice in the streets, and He never sought for others to praise Him, though deserving it more than any man (Mat 8:4; 12:19; 16:20)! Though He was the Son of God, He gave a perfect example for you. His life was totally dedicated to the service of God and others, which is what should control your speech and actions at all times.
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