Encourage by Commendation
WORDS are of little value when deeds are needed. (Jas. 2:15, 16; 1 John 3:17, 18) But it would be a mistake to conclude that fine words are useless. By no means! There are times when fine words are just the thing needed, even as the inspired proverb shows: “As apples of gold in silver carvings is a word spoken at the right time for it.”—Prov. 25:11.
The value of fine words can be illustrated by the experience of a hardworking mother of five children. Diligently she labored to keep her house and the clothes of her family neat and clean and, what is more, she cooked very good meals. But did her family ever think of giving her a compliment because of how clean she kept their home and for the tasty meals she prepared day after day? No. When she once brought this to their attention, they replied: “O Ma, you should know that so long as we don’t complain, everything is just fine!”
How typical of many, many families! Yet how thoughtless, how unwise and how unloving! Life is so full of things that tend to depress or discourage. “Time and unforeseen occurrence befall” all of us; we become victims of circumstances over which we may have little or no control. (Eccl. 9:11) Disappointments and personal failings have a tendency to produce negative thinking. How much appreciated, then, is the word of commendation whenever it can be given! So, look for opportunities to commend instead of harping on weaknesses and shortcomings.
In all of this the Christian apostle Paul set a truly fine example. In writing to the various Christian congregations in his day he had much counsel to give, but almost invariably he began his letters by giving encouraging commendation. Thus to the Christians at Rome he wrote: “First of all, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ concerning all of you, because your faith is talked about throughout the whole world.” (Rom. 1:8) Likewise to the Christians at Philippi he wrote: “I thank my God always . . . because of the contribution you have made to the good news from the first day until this moment.” (Phil. 1:3, 5) And in his first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica he devoted all of what is now the 1 Th first chapter to commending them for their faith, endurance and zeal. The apostle John manifested the same loving thoughtfulness. When writing to certain individuals, to “the chosen lady” and to Gaius, he likewise began with words of commendation.—2 John 1, 4; 3 John 3, 4.
Who cannot take a lesson from the apostles Paul and John in this regard? Are you an employer or foreman? Do you think of giving encouraging commendation when an employee works diligently and conscientiously, perhaps putting forth special efforts because of unusual circumstances? Or are you an employee that has been favored with more than usual understanding and consideration on the part of your employer or foreman? If so, have you made some expression of appreciation therefor? Or, you parents, when your children show themselves dutiful, resisting temptations to follow the selfish, wayward course of others and, instead, bring home from school good reports as to their studies and conduct, do you bestow encouraging commendation?
What about you youths? Did you ever think of going out of your way to express appreciation to your father and mother for all they do for you? After all, your mother might have left you as a babe at some foundling home or your father might have deserted his family, as so many thousands of fathers and mothers have done. Did you ever think of surprising them by a “thank you” card or message in the mail? Recently a pair of Brooklyn daughters did that to their widowed mother, and what happiness it brought her!
The apostle Paul also set us another example in his use of fine words to encourage others. He did this by employing a Greek form of the verb (the present tense) that does not mean simply to do something but to keep on doing it. It might be likened to the popular expression, “Keep up the good work!” Most Bible translations fail to give this fine shade of meaning, which is known as the continuative present, but the New World Translation is one that does justice to Paul’s carefully chosen words. So we find Paul writing: “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus.” “Keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” “Whatever things are true, . . . righteous, . . . chaste, . . . lovable, . . . continue considering these things.” “Finally, go on acquiring power in the Lord and in the mightiness of his strength.”—Phil. 2:5, 12; 4:8; Eph. 6:10.
How wise it would be for all who have the responsibility of oversight or who have others in their care, such as parents, schoolteachers, overseers, foremen and employers, to take a page from the apostle Paul in this respect. “Keep up the good work” is encouraging in two ways. The adjective “good” shows appreciation for what has been accomplished and telling one to “keep up” what he is doing serves as an incentive or admonition to do more of the same. Many are the opportunities for such fine words at the congregational gatherings of Christians, even as indicated by the inspired apostle’s admonition: “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”—Heb. 10:23-25.
Truly, fine words, encouraging words of commendation, do have their place in the lives of all of us, and, in particular, in the lives of all who profess to be Christians!