Sometimes it feels risky to compliment people. Compliments can easily lead to egoism, and we’ve all seen that happen. Or, we’ve warned that praising someone on something specific can misdirect others’ values. For example, little girls who are constantly told they are pretty may assume that being pretty is what matters in life.
Truly, “those who flatter their neighbors are spreading nets for their feet” (Proverbs 29:5 NIV). But God Himself has praised, encouraged, and otherwise complimented people. There are God-honoring ways to compliment other people. Scripture even promotes such speech (Hebrews 3:13).
1. Praise in the Sight of God
The Bible is peppered with examples of Godly people praising each other in the sight of the Lord. Paul, for example, tells the Philippians that He thanks God for them (Philippians 1:3). In many of His letters, Paul commends specific traits of church bodies for being so righteous.
When we pay someone a compliment, we praise them in the sight of God whether we think about it or not because He is omnipresent. To intentionally compliment someone before the Lord means purposefully pointing out that God is the ultimate receiver of praise and giver of anything worthy of praise. It’s the subtle difference between “you are so smart” and “God so gifts with you intelligence”.
We build each other up in the Lord when we give a compliment that points to the Lord.
2. Praise in the Sight of Others
Living in this world as believers, we face trial and persecution. It is easy to grow weary and become discouraged. It is also common, even in fellowship, to feel as if we don’t measure up. Affirming someone in the presence of other people can be encouraging. God praised Jesus in this way, announcing audibly “this is my son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
We all need reminders of who we are before God, and who that makes us in this world. More than that, we often need to be reminded of how God views others because our hearts are so easily critical.
Complimenting someone in front of other people can remind everyone involved that that person is beloved by God, chosen, created, and a part of the body of Christ. Public compliments that give a frame of reference beginning with the Lord are both convicting and uplifting for its hearers and receivers.