We all have natural instincts and impulses that kick in when we receive criticism. But after those instincts and impulses get out of the way, if we are trying to receive the criticism in a Christian manner, we thank the person who gave it, tell them that we will think it over and weigh it and pray about it and consider it. And at the end of the day, we might think their criticism was brilliant or we might think it was cuckoo. But my point here is that we are used to the idea that we should take criticism seriously and at least give it some consideration. The Scripture says plenty about receiving criticism. For example, “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27:5-6).
But what about praise? We have natural instincts and impulses here as well. I’m pretty sure that I receive a compliment without much soul searching. Praise has a ready reception. But take a look at Proverbs 27:21.
“As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.”
This means that praise should go into the furnace and get tested before it is accepted. I don’t think we should agonize over such things. (Do I really look cute in this dress or not?) But we ought to receive praise into our hearts with caution.
How do we test it? We should hand it off to God and ask Him to test it. Or we should laugh to ourselves and say to the praise, “Into the furnace with you!”
Matthew Henry has a slightly different take on this, and I will happily defer to the great Puritan preacher. He says praise puts the man into the furnace and we find out what kind of man he really is. The praise might make him proud and lazy or it might make him diligent and thankful. I like his take on it. Either way, whether the man is in the furnace or the praise is in the furnace, praise is something we need to steward, and maybe even more carefully than we steward criticism.