Why Christians Need to Stop Deflecting Praise to God

“And I am sure of this, that he who began

a good work in you

will bring it to completion at

the day of Jesus Christ.”

- Philippians 1:6

“Oh no, it wasn’t me. It was just God working through me.” Sound familiar? Perhaps it was the response to a genuine compliment you were trying to give. Or perhaps, it was your response to a genuine compliment. Either way, I am not sure where this practice first began in the Christian community, but it needs to stop. A constant deflection to God for our efforts not only robs us of the ability to lift each other up, it creates some serious knots in our heads and hearts.

Dad did it!

I remember learning to ride a bike for the first time. My dad was a pretty aggressive teacher, he would have none of my “I’m scared” or “I’m not ready.” The only grace he gave me was a promise to hold onto the back of my seat while I learned to balance. The first time I got my balance I got overconfident and said “OK, let go!” I made it a few yards and then started to wobble. As I was about to fall over, I looked back to see Dad still had kept his hand near my seat, running behind, and caught it before I fell. “That was a good start.” he said, “Now do it again.”

When I got home, I told my Mom, “I rode my bike today!” I was ecstatic and very proud. But imagine how my Mom and Dad would have felt if I came home depressed and said, “No, I didn’t ride my bike, Dad did it all.” If I said that, Dad would be discouraged that I wasn’t building any confidence and wonder if he should help me at all. Mom would probably wonder if I needed therapy. After all, the goal of any good parent is to grow the child’s own strength.

Missing the Point

I needed to trust my Dad in order to let him teach me to ride my bike. When I finally learned, there was no doubt in my mind I couldn’t have done it without him, or at least wouldn't have. Both are true with God. Yes, we have to trust God to take the big steps needed to grow. Yes, we couldn’t grow without Him. But when all is said and done, God invests in us, His children, in the hopes that we learn something. God’s glory is that of a father and a teacher, not a puppet master. When we say “God did it” every time we do something worthwhile, we are missing the point of our relationship with Him.

Also, It’s a Bit Insulting

Probably the most obvious problem with saying “God did it” is that if He did, it would have been a lot better. To say, “Oh, that was just God working through me” about my article, my poem, my painting, or my performance, kinda implies it was a lot better than it really was. The double sided problem with deflecting praise is that we both fail to acknowledge and be encouraged by our own development, but that we also fail to critique our actions and search for improvement. To say “God did it” imposes a kind of sacred fence around your actions so if other’s criticise it, they are criticizing God.

The Best Response

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.” That is a fine expression, first uttered by John Bradford in 1555. Yes, we all live only by the grace of God. Ultimately, to understand our need for grace, and to be thankful for it is essential. However, this grace has a purpose - our growth. Just as any father would, God works for our maturity and the ability to act for good of our own heart and mind. Not that we ever get there 100%, but when we occasionally get our balance and do something well, the best response to a praise is probably just “Thank You!”