Most of us appreciate a compliment. While we understand that flattery is useless, or worse (Proverbs 26:28; 29:5), a genuine commendation lifts our spirits and spurs us on.
Jesus rebuked those who needed correction, but He also complimented people who did well. Consider a few examples.
A Centurion: Great Faith
A centurion (a Romans soldier) living at Capernaum asked Jesus to heal his servant. As Jesus started toward his house, the centurion said that would not be necessary: Jesus could “say the word” and his servant would be healed. Jesus replied, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith in Israel” (Matthew 8:10). On several occasions, Jesus noted that His disciples had little faith. This man had great faith: a simple, humble, trusting outlook which places no limits on God.
John the Baptist: Faithful Stewardship
Jesus said of John, “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!” (Matthew 11:11a). Jesus said John was no reed shaken by the wind. He was no softy. He was a prophet, and even more, he was Jesus’ forerunner, as prophesied by Malachi (3:1). At the time of this compliment, John was in prison because of his stand for truth (see Matthew 14:3-5). Soon he would be executed because of it. In that, too, he would be a forerunner of Jesus. John exemplifies faithful stewardship, courageously and sacrificially carried out.
The Poor Widow: Liberality
Once when Jesus was in the temple, He began noticing how people were contributing to the treasury. Some put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, amounting to almost nothing; at least, that is how most of us would look at it. Jesus had a different perspective. He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44). The Lord does not always measure things the way we do.
Mary: A Good Deed
Shortly before Jesus’ death, Mary, Lazarus’s brother, anointed Jesus with costly oil. The disciples rebuked her, but Jesus defended her. He said, “She has done a good deed to Me. . . . She has done what she could. . . . What this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her” (Mark 14:6-8). All of us, regardless of our specific roles or levels of ability, must do as Mary did: she did “what she could” in service to the Lord.
Could Jesus say these things about us?