The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and a man is tested by his praise.
The crucible and the furnace serve to both test and purify their metals. If there are impurities, they will surface and be removed. If there are none, then their purity will be proved. Either way, the fiery process produces good character.
So praise works in similar ways. Typically, a person will not receive public praise without proving himself through some sort of trial. Oftentimes the very praise will invite scrutiny to see if there are impurities. Many a praised idol has been brought down through the scrutiny brought on in the light of attention.
But another test for a person’s quality is the quality of the praise. We can test a person’s quality by who gives him the praise and by what he is praised for. Thus, the praise of one’s peers is valued more than that of those who know him little or understand the work he has done. The praise of persons known for their integrity and wisdom reveals more than that of the fool who “blesses his neighbor with a loud voice” (v. 14). To be praised by fools and the wicked reveals troubling impurities.
The proverb may also be speaking of testing the person by what he praises. This certainly is a good test. What does he value? Of what and of whom does he speak highly? He who praises a fool is likely to be a fool; likewise, he who praises the wicked reveals the wickedness of his own heart.
Whom do you admire? For what reasons? Answer the question truthfully and you may discover more about yourself.