1 Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.
2 Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth;
an outsider, and not your own lips.
3 Stone is heavy and sand a burden,
but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.
4 Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?
5 Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.
7 One who is full loathes honey from the comb,
but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.
8 Like a bird that flees its nest
is anyone who flees from home.
9 Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of a friend
springs from their heartfelt advice.
10 Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family,
and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you—
better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.
11 Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart;
then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.
12 The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
13 Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger;
hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider.
14 If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning,
it will be taken as a curse.
15 A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping
of a leaky roof in a rainstorm;
16 restraining her is like restraining the wind
or grasping oil with the hand.
17 As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another.
18 The one who guards a fig tree will eat its fruit,
and whoever protects their master will be honored.
19 As water reflects the face,
so one’s life reflects the heart.[a]
20 Death and Destruction[b] are never satisfied,
and neither are human eyes.
21 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
but people are tested by their praise.
22 Though you grind a fool in a mortar,
grinding them like grain with a pestle,
you will not remove their folly from them.
23 Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,
give careful attention to your herds;
24 for riches do not endure forever,
and a crown is not secure for all generations.
25 When the hay is removed and new growth appears
and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
26 the lambs will provide you with clothing,
and the goats with the price of a field.
27 You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family
and to nourish your female servants.
How can we determine the true measure of a man? As we go through life, seeking to grow into mature manhood, what is the benchmark, or the test, that we can use to feel confident and assured that we are growing in the right direction?
Perhaps the answer is to be found in a quote once spoken by Robert G. Ingersoll about Abraham Lincoln, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Or maybe we draw from a more recent example, inspired by the words of Philadelphia’s own Rocky Balboa, “It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
While men worldwide have been tested and tried by power and perseverance, what if we took a slightly different approach?
What if we looked at what the Proverbs writer says is the test of a man: his praise.
“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.”
Why is praise the ultimate test for maturity and depth? Because it strikes at the very center of what nearly all of us tend to treasure most: our pride.
It can be complicated to separate praise and pride. They often are enmeshed, woven together like strands in a rope. That’s why this is the test for every man. As the crucible is used to separate the dross from the silver and the furnace is used to purify gold, praise can also be used to separate pride from our hearts and purify our motives.
The proverbs writer intentionally shows us that praise is not simply when people say nice things about us. That is why he writes, “A man is tested by his praise.” Earlier in the chapter, we see another verse that clarifies this further.
“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”
So what is the test? How can we know if our response to praise is Godly or self-glorifying? While there are many nuances that we could call out, here are two practical ways:
- When you give praise, are you more likely to boast about yourself or build others up?
- When you get praise spoken of you, does it satisfy something you think you deserve, or does it send you towards gratitude for the grace of God in your life?
When faced with praise, both given and received, we will either respond in pride or humility. And how you choose will determine much about the measure of your character.
Nothing we will ever be praised for is of our own account. The breath in our lungs, the strength in our hands, the fortitude in our minds, it’s all God. It’s all been given to us, by grace, for the glorification of His Name.
Let us be men who choose humility and who allow praise to drive us to our knees before our great and mighty God.
God, may we never be found valuing man’s opinion and his words over Yours. May we be the type of men who see praise as a vehicle, not for our own gain, but for Your glory.