But in all seriousness, this is something that I have thought about a lot. As Christians who pay attention to the Scriptures, we know the reality and the pervasiveness of sin. This often stands in stark contrast to our culture where the buzz words are “affirmation” and “self-esteem”. Indeed, we are in a toleration culture where the only “bad” thing you can do anymore is say that a person is doing something wrong, hurting their feelings and being intolerant! How do we respond when sin is utterly disregarded in a culture?
One thing to remember is that as Christians we can view our lives on two different planes or angles. We live before God (the Latin for this is “Corum Deo”) and we also live in and amongst people (the Latin for this is “Corum Homnibus”). How we view these two angles of life are different. Before God, I know that all my righteous deeds are as filthy rags, so I am right to repent and be humble in all things. However, that very same deed may be quite beneficial to my neighbor. If someone (let’s call him Bob) goes and volunteers tutoring kids at the local school, while before God that is still replete with sin (and nothing for Bob to boast about), socially and in society it is a good thing – and there is nothing wrong with saying that it is a good thing and praising Bob for it. Our words can help to encourage folks in actions that benefit the neighbor, and so praise is most apt there. I praise my 3 year old when he eats his vegetables because I want him to develop healthy eating habits. This is all good and right in the social realm. Praise and encourage folks in their lives in things that are good!
Now, where praise can go off the rails is when it becomes overblown or false. Again, we live in a self-esteem culture where we seek constant validation. We can almost view our value based on the number of “likes” or “favorites” that we get on line. That is where things miss the point. Your value and worth is not determined by what you do – but rather your value rests in the fact that Christ Jesus died for you. Christ Jesus, God Himself, came down from heaven and suffered and died for you, apart from your works. Nothing you or I do is going to amount to anything in light of that — so I would recommend not giving false praise to puff someone up. Praise what is good… but more often point to Christ Jesus and His great love.
Hope this helps,
Rev. Eric J. Brown
Zion Lutheran Church – Lahoma, OK