“For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
Context wise, this verse comes at the end of a description of certain leaders at Jesus’ time. John 12:42 says, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue…” We would hope that such a thing would not be said of us. Many scriptures speak about the folly of seeking glory from men, and fearing men.
But the interesting part of this verse is the idea of the praise of God. Note that it is set in opposition to the praise of men. They are mutually exclusive. Desire for the praise of men puts us in the position of missing the praise of God. It also reveals short-sightedness, because the praise of men is temporal, while the praise of God is eternal.
There are some persons in the Bible who have received praise of God. One example is Abraham. James 2:23 states, “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” In his prayer recorded in 2 Chronicles 20:7 King Jehoshaphat asked, “Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?” Imagine hearing that said! Imagine being called the friend of God! That is praise of God.
Or David. Speaking of him, Paul said in Acts 13:22, “And when he had removed him (Saul), he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” In 1 Samuel 13:14, the LORD told Samuel to tell King Saul, “But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.” In 1 Samuel 16, David was anointed to be the next king of Israel. Here is another thing we could wish God might say about us, that we are someone after His heart.
A parable that Jesus spoke, recorded in Matthew 25:14-30 suggests another instance of the praise of God. A master going to a far country called his servants and gave them his goods for their care. The master later returned and called his servants to see how they had done. From the master’s response, it is apparent that his expectation was that they would handle his goods as he would handle them. In both Matthew 25:21 and 23 we read, “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
Imagine being told “Well done” by the Maker of the Universe. This is especially surprising when we take clear-minded stock of our lives and find what Romans 3:23 tells us is true of us, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…”. All, of course, means all. Not only that, but every day we fall short of His ways in some fashion. Ours is not a case of occasional sin, but of continual falling short. And, if we are honest, we must admit that there are even times, perhaps daily, when we would rather do what we want, instead of what we know God wants. With this in mind, can we ever imagine hearing God say, “Well done” to us?
But He sees our heart. And everything that we do for Him, He sees. It is also by His enabling that we are able do anything for Him. He supplies His power as we do His work. And then, He is so gracious, and humble, that when He sees us doing His work, He says, “Well done.” And one day, when we see Him, He will say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” It is no wonder that the Bible tells us that we will cast our crowns at His feet, for He is deserving of all glory, not us.
The world refuses to believe Jesus. They will endure God’s wrath; they will not receive praise of God. Believers in the LORD Jesus Christ will see Him forever, and give Him the glory He deserves. In this life, let us turn away from the praise of men, and seek to honor God.
Some day the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing;
But oh, the joy when I shall wake
Within the palace of the King!
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story—Saved by grace;
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story—Saved by grace.
Some day my earthly house will fall.
I cannot tell how soon ’twill be;
But this I know—my All in All
Has now a place in Heav’n for me.
Some day, when fades the golden sun
Beneath the rosy tinted west,
My blessèd Lord will say, Well done!
And I shall enter into rest.
Some day: till then I’ll watch and wait,
My lamp all trimmed and burning bright,
That when my Savior opens the gate,
My soul to Him may take its flight.
Refrain (Fanny Crosby)