“Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.” (Proverbs 27:10 ESV)
To what extent should we be concerned with what others thing of us? This question often boggles Christians, because we tend to misapply portions of the Bible we take out of context. The scriptures teach that “it is better to obey God than man” (Acts 5:29) and that we should do our good works “in secret”, not seeking man’s praise (Matthew 6:1; 23:5). So it seems we shouldn’t be concerned with others’ assessment of us. Yet, in other places in scripture, we’re admonished to let our light shine (Matthew 5:16) and keep our behavior godly as to put our enemies to shame (1 Peter 2:12). Leaders in the church are called to have a good reputation both within and outside the church (1 Timothy 3:7). So it seems that what others say about us does matter to some extent.
Well, which is it? In our study of the Book of Proverbs, we’ve seen the significance of the wise son’s reputation within the community time and again. Proverbs 22:1 says “a good name is more desirable than riches.” Solomon frequently counsels his children with an impassioned concern for their standing in society. And in our text for the next message, we read the phrase, “let another praise you” (Proverbs 27:2a).
It would, of course, be irresponsible to pit teachings of the Bible against one another. The message of Proverbs does not contradict other passages of the Bible that speak against the praise of others. The solution lies in entirety of Proverbs 27:2: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Clearly, self-praise is sin. Equally clearly, seeking the praise of others to boast one’s ego is sin. But living in such a way that people speak well of you is not a sin; rather, such praise is glorifying to God.
In Proverbs 27:1-22, the wise son is instructed to lead a praise-worthy life in relationship to his neighbors. He is exhorted to be mindful of all his neighbors’ needs and to avoid damaging relationships. As we come to this text, we will discover practical ways wherein we can put into practice our Lord’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves. By the grace of God, let us determine to be faithful, loving neighbors, establishing good reputations for the glory of God in the midst of the community.