Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Praise Tests The Heart (Proverbs 27:21)


The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise. [Proverbs 27:21, ESV]

One of the most dangerous things for Christians is pride. When we begin to walk by faith, to trust God to do what He has promised to do, to trust that He knows best, and to pray for the things that He has put on our hearts, we will inevitably see great things happen around us. God may take longer than we expect Him to, but there is always a reason for God’s timing, and we know that His timing is perfect. When we begin to see what God is doing, and we begin to receive the blessings that come from serving God, pride begins to tempt us.

I do not believe that a humble person goes to bed one night, only to wake up as a prideful person. From what I understand, and from what I have seen, pride is something that sneaks into the heart, slowly expanding throughout the mind, until what was a humble person becomes a prideful person. Pride is incredibly good at laying low, sneaking into minds, and corrupting them from within. That pride destroys ministries, destroys friendships, marriages, families, and reputations. Pride is faith-poison, and we must remain vigilant in our fight against temptation in all forms.

In this essay, I am going to take a different approach than I would normally take. In the majority of my verse-by-verse studies, I will have some kind of introduction, then I will break apart the passage, examine each part, then give a closing statement. Today, however, I am going to be doing things a bit differently.

The reason for me choosing to change my style for this verse is because, due to the way the verse was written, it would not make sense if I broke it into smaller parts. With that in mind, let us examine this verse.

We should begin by examining the end of the verse, since that is where the point of the verse is located.

…and a man is tested by his praise.

As previously stated, the verse does not make sense when broken up, so let us reconstruct the verse, using what we just read. Proverbs 27:21 describes the way that a man is tested by praise, in the same way that silver is tested by a crucible, or gold is tested by a furnace.

I am not much of a metallurgist, but I do know a bit about melting metal (I have melted metals as a hobby). The crucible is the container that one would put the metal into, so that it can melt in the heat, without being wasted. In the context of this verse, one would put the silver into a crucible, and that crucible would be used to hold the molten silver. The crucible does more than just hold the liquid form of the metal, it is what one would use to remove impurities from metal.

For example, when I melt aluminum, I must take a crucible, place aluminum into the crucible, get the furnace or forge hot enough to melt aluminum, then I must wait for the metal to be completely liquified. When the metal has been completely melted, the next step is to use something called a flux, which is used to separate the metal from the various impurities that it contains. Borax is a common flux to use for aluminum, and when I put some borax into molten aluminum, the borax reacts with the metal and brings the impurities to the top of the crucible. From there, all that I would need to do is take a spoon or a graphite rod, skim the top of the crucible, and put the impurities into another container. At that point, the aluminum is shiny, clean, and ready to be cast (poured into a mold).

I find it interesting that this verse compares praise to a crucible and a furnace, rather than the heat itself. The reason for this being so interesting is that the crucible does not do the actual melting of the metal, nor does it refine the metal. All that the crucible does is hold the metal so that it does not go to waste and spill all over the furnace. In the same way that the crucible is not the thing that does the actual refining, the furnace is where the heat comes from, but it is also the thing that contains the heat so that the crucible can be heated enough to melt the metal.

In the same way, praise is not what refines a person, but praise can be used to test a person’s character. There are two ways that one could interpret this verse:

  1. Praise shows who a person’s friends are.

In the same way that (to quote my mother) “birds of a feather flock together”, the people who praise a person are often good at telling others what the person receiving the praise is really like on the inside. If a man is praised, but the praise comes from murderers who are serving life in prison, one would have to question whether the man who is receiving said praise is really worthy of that praise at all. The people who praise somebody could reveal more about the person being praised.

  1. Praise tests one’s ability to resist pride.

It is very hard for one to develop an ego when there is nothing to feed it. The more praise given, the harder it becomes to resist becoming prideful. There is always the temptation to become prideful, but that temptation will grow as one receives praise. We are all born into sin, and our desires are opposed to the desires of the Spirit. When we hear praise about us, we can be grateful, thank those who praise us, and thank God for the things that He has given to us, or we can become prideful. When one becomes prideful, he separates himself from God, from his friends and family, and from himself. Pride will take a good person and turn them into a mean, self-important, egomaniac. Pride is incredibly sneaky in the way it works itself into minds, and praise only makes pride harder to detect.

The point of this verse is simple, yet profound. Praise will test a person’s character, revealing who he truly is. It is easy to pretend that one is somebody different than who he really is, but that act becomes much more difficult to put on when he encounters hardship, or when he is praised by others.

Pride is often difficult for us to see in ourselves, but it is obvious to others, and God knew our hearts before time began. In my life, I have seen pride work its way into my heart, and by the time I realized, it was too late. The best way to resist pride is to ask God to keep us humble, to give us wisdom, and to give us the ability to see ourselves as we truly are. It is better to prevent pride than it is to treat it, and the best way to prevent pride from taking root in your heart is to ask God to give you a humble heart, and to help you pay attention to the thoughts that go through your mind.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. [James 4:7, ESV]

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