Let another praise you, and not your own mouth—a stranger, and not your own lips. (Psalm 27:2)
Our mouths are meant to praise the Lord; our tongues to honor Him and point others to Him. Second only to that is speech given to lift up our fellow man — both male and female — and to affirm and encourage, to teach and instruct, and to rebuke and help restore. Even a rebuke given in love is a positive thing, and can lead to growth.
James 3:9-10: “With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be!”
Ephesians 5:19-20: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
But Not for Ourselves
But speech is not given to us to call attention to ourselves, to beat on our own chests and boast about how great we are. We show our character by our deeds, not by our words. We show our wisdom by kind and gracious words to and about others, not by boasting.
James 3:13: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good conduct, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”
1 John 3:20-21: “If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And we have this commandment from Him: Whoever loves God must love his brother as well.”
The Danger of Boasting
1 Corinthians 5:6: “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?”
When we boast about ourselves, we cease to boast about God, or to be considerate and complimentary towards others. We will have started down that slippery path of self-exaltation, which will become our real goal, and we will justify any action that makes us look good by comparison. We will criticize others — fairly or unfairly — not because there is something to be learned from their mistakes, but just so we will look better. We will be and do the opposite of the scriptural command: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19).
When we boast about ourselves we will be blind to God’s greatness, and, by our selfishness, apathetic to our brother’s or sister’s abilities or needs. We will have dangerously cut ourselves off from further growth as Christians and as professional or social people. We will also be insensitive to our brother’s situation. Some servants may face opposition in their ministry or be called to a difficult and unresponsive place of service and have little observable results to show for their service, and we may have had a relatively easy and fruitful one. Yet they may have demonstrated more true faithfulness in their spiritually cold climate than we have in our spiritually warm one. God warns us:
1 Cor 4:5: “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.”
A Fair Assessment of Ourselves
There is nothing wrong with a fair and honest reporting of our experiences and even what God has done through us in our service. The Bible records the sharing of results of the gospel as positive things, encouraging the believers, for examples:
Acts 14:27: “When they arrived, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them, and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”
Acts 15:12: “The whole assembly fell silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul describing the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.”
But all such reporting should remain as objective and self-effacing and humble as possible, pointing to the power and grace of God, and not to ourselves. It should plant a desire in the hearts of the hearers to be used of God. We should not impress others with how great we have been but with how great God is, how great the needs in the world are, and how God can use them. Notice this example of Paul speaking of Epaphras’ ministry among the Colossians, how he put the emphasis on the power of the gospel itself, and not on Epaphras’ personality or talents.
Colossians 1:6-8: “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood the grace of God. You learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also informed us of your love in the Spirit.”
So let another praise you, not you yourself.