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Breakfast at Tiffany's: Flowers for Jesus

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 6:1

 

My husband, Aaron, tells the story of how a woman in his church complimented him one Sunday morning on his drum playing during the praise and worship. Not wanting to seem arrogant, he responded, “All glory to God!” She then replied, “Well, it wasn’t that good.”

            I think we’ve all had that awkward moment when someone compliments us on something, and we aren’t quite sure how to respond. Will they think I’m taking all the glory if I receive their compliment with thanks? If I don’t deflect the attention off myself or add a self-deprecating comment, am I forfeiting my heavenly reward by letting their praise encourage me?

               Sometimes, we as Christians can overcomplicate things in an effort to conform to certain scriptural truths. Noble as those efforts might be, I think it’s important to ask ourselves if we are truly capturing the essence of what God intended to communicate in certain Bible passages. In this instance, the scripture passage that people often overcomplicate is Matthew 6:1-6. Jesus is admonishing his listeners not to practice their righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. He called people who do such things as giving to the poor or praying long prayers just so others will see them hypocrites, and adds that they will not be rewarded by God because they have already received their reward in full.

            I don’t think that Jesus was trying to say here that it’s wrong to accept compliments when others happen to see the good we do. He was trying to get to the heart of the matter, which literally begins in the heart of the individual. He wanted his followers to do things out of a genuine love for God and others—not to bring attention to themselves. Because it is a natural response for people to praise those who they appreciate or admire, Jesus warned us not to fall into the trap of allowing that to be our motivation. He wants us to evaluate the intentions of our heart long before we actually carry something out.

            Now think of it from the perspective of the one giving praise to someone else for something they did that blessed you in some way. How do you feel when your heartfelt appreciation is met with deflection, false humility, or a seeming rebuke for praising them instead of God for what they did? It can be a little humiliating, especially if giving compliments is difficult for you to begin with.

            I once heard a wise woman of God illustrate this scenario in a way that forever changed how I respond to praise from others. She said that each time someone gives you a compliment for something you’ve done for God, think of it as though they are giving you a flower. Receive it with gratitude without adding any unnecessary platitudes. Then gather those flowers into a beautiful bouquet that can be presented to God in thanks for using you to bless others. It really is that simple. In this way, you acknowledge the heartfelt gratitude of others without making them feel belittled, and you maintain a spirit of true humility which brings joy to your Heavenly Father.

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