“Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:31 KJV)
One of the best reasons to have a cat is to watch them play with light. I remember watching our cat Camai—she was so haughty and aloof by nature. But all of her aloofness would suddenly evaporate in the presence of a moving speckle of light on the wall. Whether caused by a flashlight or the refraction of sunlight off a watch crystal, Camai would suddenly get that look in her eye, make that funny sound in her throat, and off she’d go—endlessly trying to capture the glimmer for herself. I would keep it moving just out of her reach, and she would stretch her bony paw across the floor or up the wall to apprehend it. Sometimes I would let her think she actually did “catch it.” Hilarious! She would lay on the light to subdue it—only to discover that it wasn’t hers to control after all.
Seeking praise is like that. Attempting to claim and possess it is always futile. When praise itself is the commodity we strive for, even when we give sacrificially to obtain it, our efforts will continually cause us to come up empty-handed. It is always just out of reach, and when we finally think we’ve caught it, we find it’s not really ours to possess and control. We are just allowed to THINK it’s ours for a brief moment. Chasing after it time and time again only serves to make us look ridiculous because it will never, ever be ours to keep. Here now—gone in a moment. If not today, eventually—as elusive as that moving spot of light is to a cat.
Therefore, our efforts cannot focus on praise (of self) but on LOVE—the kind of love that gives with no thought of return. The “fruit of (our) hands” must be cultivated from a heart of love that seeks to give and share selflessly. Praise will come … but from where? “The gates.” From the seat of authority and judgment. From the TOP. Where it counts—where the real control is.
Praise is elusive. Give up trying to get it, and just do your BEST. But when it does come to us, it should not be spurned either. We should never insult the praise-giver by making their compliment seem inappropriate, insincere, or ill-given.
“What a beautiful song you sang!”
“What?! How can you say that?! You must be deaf!!”
We may be right to feel praise is undeserved, but we should never destroy it in the face of the giver by our insecurity or misguided “humility.” Rather, we should redirect the gift of praise to the One who truly deserves it—to the One from Whom ALL gifts and blessings flow. In so doing, we recycle the praise to its highest and best purpose—to God Himself.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from ABOVE …” (James 1:17 KJV)
I will never forget attending an early Andre Crouch concert decades ago. He was still quite fresh—just becoming a popular gospel artist. I will always remember the way he sang his own songs from the piano, with such heartfelt emotion, anointing … and humility. He genuinely refused to accept the applause for himself—rather referring the praise to Jesus, the true source of his inspiration. “To God be the glory …”
Prayer: Dear Jesus, whatever I do, let it always be my BEST, and if there be any praise, may it all go to YOU. In Your name, Amen.