A new series
O Lord, open my lips,I used to think that praise, like love, was a zero sum game. I thought that in order to make sure God got the highest praise, I had to refrain from speaking too highly of anything else. Superlatives were therefore reserved for divine things. Saying too much about what was good was a threat to what was best.
and my mouth will declare your praise. - Psalm 51.15
But this needn't be the case. Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4.4). Whatever brings joy and life, whatever multiples love and fosters hope, whatever truly exists, is a gift from God for us. Gifts that were intended to evoke our thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4.3). When we praise a good thing, this needn't threaten God's glory, because if we are acknowledging a gift, then praise reflects positively on the giver. By praising the goodness of the gift, we praise the generosity of the giver.
Of course, since our first parents arrogantly asserted their independence from God, the world is now also cracked and good things that usurp their specific place and function become a threat to one another, like a cancerous growth in the body of the world. Nonetheless, the fundamental affirming of "good, very good" still applies, even when more must also be said.
I come from a Christian culture that can be very highly critical, and where initial appreciation of some limited goodness can all-too-often be merely a prelude to tearing something apart. We love to critique, to feel good about ourselves by pointing at flaws in others. I don't like this culture, nor the fact that I enjoy complaining as much as the next person. But perhaps even this negative reaction is itself an example of the culture. Instead, I want to learn to be a praiser - to see and love the good. To hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good (Romans 12.9).
So let us praise what is good.
Ten points for guessing why I selected this picture. There may be multiple reasons.
Series so far: I; II; III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX; X. Full series links can be found here.