Brothers, praise somebody other than God.
I can hear blasphemy sirens going off in readers’ minds. If “praise somebody other than God” means “praise somebody instead of God,” or “more than God,” the concern is warranted indeed. But if “praise somebody other than God” means “do it because God is honored by it,” that’s another thing entirely.
Commending Whom God Commends
Is it possible that God actually receives more honor from us when we praise somebody other than God? The answer can be yes. In the same way that the heavens are declaring the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), God’s common kindness in everyone around us (both saint and sinner) is declaring his glory as well. But just as God does not receive as much glory when we fail to pause, observe the heavens, and verbalize our praise, so he does not receive as much glory when we fail to pause, observe his goodness in others’ lives around us, and verbalize our praise.
So, we could say, “Brothers, praise somebody other than God, for God’s sake.” Or even, “Brothers, agree with God, and commend somebody he commends.”
Merely praising somebody other than God isn’t enough. God isn’t necessarily honored by that. The question is, How can we praise somebody other than God for God’s glory?
God-Centered Praise for Those Who Are Not God
We do it by praising persons who are not God in a God-centered way, by praising them for being godly, for being Christlike, by commending them for God’s glory, applauding them for doing something good in the strength God supplies (1 Peter 4:11). This is how we complete the loop when Jesus teaches us that people should let their lights so shine that others see their good works . . . and what? Glorify their Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). If we don’t glorify God for people’s good works, we miss the point of Jesus’s teaching and the point of their good works, which are works that are . . . what? Good! We must recognize them as such, and say so. And they did those good works, because God was at work in them. So he gets the final, ultimate credit.
For many of us, our churches and homes and offices and marketplaces are full of people doing good works in the strength God supplies. Our job is to get for God the glory he deserves by calling out the goodness he’s worked through others and commending it openly.
God Praises Others
God himself — to whom all praise is finally due — praises others. Is he violating his own most basic revelation? As a jealous God, he permits no competition. “You shall have no other gods before me,” he says in Exodus 20:3. “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction,” says Exodus 22:20. “Let no one boast in men,” enjoins the apostles Paul (1 Corinthians 3:21).
God straightforwardly warns the wise, the mighty, and the rich to not boast in anything but him.
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23–24)
Jesus Joins the Chorus
Jesus himself says, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). If God alone is good, how can I exhort us to praise anyone else? Even more startling, how can God praise anyone else? Well, Jesus models such praise of others, calling Nathaniel a man in whom is no guile (Wow! Wouldn’t you like to have Jesus say that about you? I would), calling his disciples salt and light, saying his followers are more valuable than many sparrows, saying the woman of ill repute did a beautiful thing, marveling (!) at the faith of the centurion, commending the woman of great faith, and more.
God the Father describes Noah as righteous in his generation, Jabez as more honorable than his brothers, and Solomon as very great and even majestic. And what does the Bible say we are to do with the noble woman of Proverbs 31? Answer: she is to be praised! (verse 30)
Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant
There is something defective about a person who does not want to be praised by God. Every person in existence should want to hear God say at the end of his life, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will exalt you (James 4:10). And when we are so praised, we will immediately deflect the praise to God saying, “It was God’s grace at work in me.” We get the praise — and the joy of deflecting it back to him.
We should desire to be like Paul when he says, “Our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God” (2 Corinthians 1:12). Paul is boasting about his own behavior — but only by the grace of God. So affirmation travels horizontally toward people and passes vertically through them to God where it lands.
For God’s Good and Ours
If anything is commendable, we should take delight in commending it. We are commanded to esteem our leaders very highly because of their work in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13).
When we become fountains of affirmation, God gets the honor he deserves, others are refreshed, we gain a hearing (people tend to be influenced by those who commend them), general morale is lifted, our mouths are filled with praise instead of complaint and grumbling, and good things are increasingly valued and are more likely to be repeated.
So, brothers, for God’s sake, praise somebody other than God.
"Brothers, We Are Still Not Professionals: Reclaiming the Centrality of the Supernatural in Ministry" is the theme of the Desiring God 2013 Conference for Pastors (February 4–6 in Minneapolis).
The forthcoming revised and expanded edition of John Piper's book Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is now available for pre-order.
Other posts in this series:
- Brothers, Live a Visible, Exemplary, Everyday Life, Jeff Vanderstelt
- Brothers, Supernatural Does Not Mean Stupid, John Piper
- Brothers, the Ministry Is Supernatural, John Piper
- Brothers, We Are Not Sisters, Doug Wilson
- Brothers, Build a Gospel Culture, Ray Ortlund
- Brothers, Train Up the Next Generation, Mike Bullmore
- Brothers, We Should Stink, Thabiti Anyabwile
- Brothers, We Are Not Superstars, Danny Akin
- Brothers, We Are Not Professors, R. C. Sproul, Jr.