For God’s Sake, Take A Compliment.



Recently I received a complement that really got me thinking.  Someone came up to me and said, “Jon that shirt looks really good on you.”  I said, “Thank you very much.”  As I walked away I thought to myself, “That’s one of the weirdest conversations I’ve ever had.” As I thought about the phrase “That shirt looks good on you”, I realized that I was being complimented for being a hanger.

As I thought about it more I came to the conclusion that what was actually being complimented was the shirt.

The person didn’t say, “you look very nice, and I like your shirt”.

Now the person who said this is not the weirdest weirdo in the conversation, because I said, “Thank you”, as if in some way I could take credit for how good the shirt looked.  I didn’t make the shirt; I picked it out from a pile of ten other shirts just like it.

I was complimented for something that had nothing to do with me,
and then I took credit for it.

 Compliments are essentially our way of congratulating someone
on things that we admire.

Some people are good at giving compliments.  They don’t compliment people on things, behaviors, or appearances but rather on character traits.  When I was a youth pastor, every night of our mission trips ended with a time to encourage and compliment someone about “who they are” or who we see them becoming in Christ.  We always tried to push past behavior and commend the character behind it.

For instance someone might stay behind after dinner to help clean up.  We didn’t say, “Thanks for cleaning the table”, we said, “Today you were such a servant, you were selfless, and gave up your time for others.”  That’s a good compliment, because it goes beyond what was done, and down into “who you are” and “who God is causing you to become.”

I’ve learned that you can tell what is important to someone by the things they compliment in other people.

I’ve heard girls complimented for being pretty,

as if they had anything to do with it.

Boys complimented on being tall,

like short boys just aren’t applying themselves.

Men complimented on having such thick hair,

“Like a Russian Cossack!”

 And women complimented for having great nails,

Just say, “nice genes” next time.

These compliments don’t really mean much, they’re just a way of telling someone they pass our muster.

Some people aren’t bad at giving compliments; they’re bad at receiving them.

It’s like they’ve coated themselves in compliment repellent.  They are so busy denying your compliment with self-deprecating deflection that you almost want to scream and walk away.

Sometimes they can’t receive a compliment because they’re too busy saying, “It was all God…”.  As nice as that sentiment is intended to be, I’m of the belief that God would do things 100% better than us 100% of the time.

Nothing we ever do is actually God good.

It makes you wonder if either person has ever heard the phrase “Thank you” before?  “Thank you” is a perfectly acceptable response to a compliment.  It doesn’t dethrone God, it doesn’t make anyone else uncomfortable, and it tells the person doing the complimenting that you appreciate their kind words on your behalf.  “Thank you” is both honest and gracious.

There are great and Godly ways of saying thank you.

 David remarked longingly to his men, “Oh, how I would love some of that good water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem. So the three (warriors) broke through the Philistine lines, drew some water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem and brought it back to David. But he refused to drink it. Instead he poured it out as an offering to the Lord.” “The Lord forbid that I should drink this!” he exclaimed.  “This water is as precious as the blood of these men who risked their lives to bring it to me…”  II Samuel 23:14-17

This gift was a tremendous compliment and affirmation, but David refused to drink the water.  Do you think that this was what the 3 men expected? Is David someone who cannot receive something from someone else?

I think we can learn from David exactly what to do in a situation where we are the recipients of an amazing outpouring of gracious behavior.  David accepted their gift, THEN offered it up to God.  David received their grace, then added truth to the mix.

Most of the time we do one or the other.  We accept the gracious comments of others as if we are the only ones responsible, or we disingenuously deflect them towards the Lord.

You’ve seen this before right?  You’ll try to tell someone that you really respect something that they’ve done, and they just keep saying that it didn’t have anything to do with them, it was “all God”.  Pastors are the worst at this.

“You know Jon I really enjoyed the sermon this morning.” 

“Oh it was nothing, it was all the Lord.”

That might sound righteous initially, but aren’t I asking you to ignore hours of work and then believe that I got up on stage, and something Godly just tumbled out?   That’s a lie.

There’s nothing wrong with accepting the congratulations or the compliments of others.

In fact it’s actually an exercise in humility to stop and say thank you.  By saying “thank you”, you are acknowledging that you are not above the giver.  You’re acknowledging that that person has something to offer you, and you’re also giving them the opportunity to speak the words of the Lord to you through them.

Beyond this this, can you really offer something to God that isn’t actually yours?  In truth, you must own and acknowledge a gift, before passing on to the only one that is worthy of worship.

Each of our lives is lived out in much the same manner as the boy who brought his loaves and fishes to Jesus.  Even though we might have plenty of skill talent or resource, it’s never actually enough until it gets placed in God’s hands.   I could put 40 hours into a sermon, but if the Lord is not in it then it becomes merely entertainment of the narrowest variety.

Whenever we are complimented we have the opportunity to accept the gracious offering and marry it with the truth.  It’s our responsibility to accept what is being given and then offer it up to the person who multiplied our work into something better than it could have been on its own.

Today, don’t skip the self-humbling step of owning someone’s praise before offering it to God.

When we offer the praise that has been given us to God, it points people in the direction of the one who is always worthy, but vastly under recognized.

This act of sacrifice is something that honors God and brings humility to everyone involved.




5 Responses to “For God’s Sake, Take A Compliment.”

  1. Sharon O May 17, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    This is wonderful… I really enjoyed it and it gives me alot to think about. THANK YOU for a wonderful writing and using your gift of writing to bless others.

  2. Kenny C. May 27, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    This reminds me of something you said in a sermon, “be good for nothing”. Simply because of the fact that it is good and has nothing to do with you or any kudos that you may receive. In fact you may be looked down on for doing something good that doesn’t benefit you at all. In turn exposing the hearts of the people that you may be around and opening up a door for them to see who God is and what his love looks like. I fail at doing this. But the good thing is I now recognize when I do.

    • Jon July 18, 2013 at 7:31 am #

      Thanks Kenny, I love seeing you being good for nothing!

  3. Glendon L Thomlison July 17, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    In preparing a message for the men of my church (on complimenting your wife for a good marriage), I ran into some riches for my thought bank.
    The notation about David pouring out the water. “You jerk, I’ve often thought.”
    “Couldn’t you drink the water, and audibly praise God for the precious refreshment, and to the wonderful men who retrieved it at great risk, express how you felt about the well water.”
    After reading you thoughts, I am able to be a bit more mature and kindly toward my old hero, David, who pleased God.
    Much appreciation for your words.

    • Jon July 18, 2013 at 7:32 am #

      Thanks Glendon,
      I’m super glad to hear that you are leading the men in your church towards Godliness!

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