Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend
“Giving and Receiving Compliments While Maintaining Vigilance”
1 Cor. 16:17-18
“I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.”
While I was pastoring many years ago, a young woman attending my church sent me this email: “Please don’t compliment me anymore . . . What you said was nice, but compliments are best served to your family.” Puzzled, I wrote back: “Why do you take such a hard stance? Isn’t compliment giving recognition for a job well done? What about people without any family? Your view seems unnatural to me.” After all, the Lord once told a gentile woman seeking help for her demonized daughter, “Woman, you have great faith!” (Matt. 15:28). Paul, in speaking about three persons who “refreshed [his] spirit,” said, “such men deserve recognition” (1 Cor. 16:18).
Curious as to how she arrived at her view, I soon learned that it came from a book about marriage that illustrated how people, whose needs are unmet by their spouse, may find it outside of marriage with disastrous results. The author noted that it often starts out with compliments and being nice. Startled by her discovery, this single woman took exception to her pastor‘s kind words for a job well-done.
Obviously, what the book cautions makes sense. The man who doesn’t feel very valued by his wife may feel validated by a woman who keeps complimenting him. A young woman whose hair and scent are constantly praised by her male boss may feel special. And that’s when things can happen. But my congregant’s departure from this sensible warning reminded me of what Jesus said will happen at the end of time: “the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). Wouldn’t a categorical rejection of giving compliments to the members of the opposite sex or nonfamily member make our world rather an unfriendly place?
Actually, giving compliments is not the problem but bad marriage or relationship is. Husband and wife in a healthy relationship will appreciate someone of the opposite sex praising positive changes or good work. But they will feel uncomfortable and alarmed, not flattered, if this person continues to make admiring comments on everything they do or their appearances.
Paul said, “In your thinking be adults.” In our complex world, a childish way of thinking is to see everything in terms of either/or: either you compliment only your own family or don’t praise anyone else since it may lead to an illicit relationship. But what the Lord said in a different context may also apply here: “You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former” (Matt. 23:24). So, we ought to recognize those who have earned our praise while appreciating the compliments that others give us (Prov. 27:21). At the same time, we should avoid giving empty flattery or being swayed by dubious compliments with ulterior motives.
But today, recognize those who have refreshed your spirit. Don’t let them guess. Call or text them. Better yet, how about a lunch, on you.
Prayer: Dear God, thank You for giving me the ability to serve You and, at times, do it well. Thank You for those who, upon noticing it, complimented me. May that not go to my head but to my heart so that I will always remain grateful to You for saving me and then using me in Your kingdom work. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 5-6