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 only the pure metals that were ready to be used for fine jewelry.
Praise is a fiery trial for persons (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, glorifying 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 quite true? Do you fear it? Do you fully 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 praise!
Those taught by the Holy Spirit will recognize the great danger in praise. You should carry a sign saying you are flammable, to keep the heat or spark of praise at a distance. You should dread praise more than rebuke, for the one bears the good fruits of humility and instruction, and the other may work your 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.
You have already been warned about praise in this chapter. First, you were told to let others praise you, making no effort to get the word out yourself (Pr 27:2). Second, you were told that rebukes and wounds from friends are better than love and kisses of flattering enemies (Pr 27:5-6). Then you were taught to ignore excessive praise and flattery, for it is more like a curse than a blessing (Pr 27:14). Do you understand and practice each of these warnings about praise? Do you grasp the danger and temptation?
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 merely a son of Saul’s servant, Jesse the Bethlehemite (I Sam 17:58). When offered Saul’s daughters, David thought the honor too high for him (I Sam 18:17-24). He was totally gracious in spite of universal adulation and won Jonathan’s heart (Pr 22:11).
Most men are not like David. Saul’s envy destroyed him because Israel praised David more than they praised him (I Sam 18:6-11). Absalom, hearing praise throughout his life, 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 from Tyre and Sidon (Acts 12:20-23). Diotrephes earned John’s severe rebuke for loving the preeminence (III John 1:9).
Time would fail to write of the golden character of Joseph, Daniel, and the apostles of the 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 any 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 God’s severe condemnation of it.
The wise man Agur, though a prophet included in this book of Proverbs, counted himself horribly brutish (Pr 30:1-3). King Solomon thought himself a child without ruling ability in private conversation with God (I Kgs 3:7). And the greatest apostle considered himself less than the least of all saints and the chief of sinners (Eph 3:8; I Tim 1:15).
Consider also the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, who left the throne of glory to become a servant among men (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).
Prepare yourself ahead of time, dear reader, so that when the deadly elixir of praise is offered, you may politely and deftly direct the attention to heaven, from where all blessings descend. You are nothing without Him, and you should give Him all the glory.