Examples of Tributes
especially from the Bible

Golden Gate Sunset
These examples of tributes are taken from the Bible.

The principle to keep in mind, when giving a tribute, is that we are thanking God for the good He is doing, or has done, in the person (or persons).

As I write this, I am doing the section on pastor appreciation, but it can be applied to other types of tributes as well.

Some of the finest tributes are found in the Gospels.

Joseph, the spouse of Mary and foster-father of Jesus, is called a just, or righteous man. (Matthew 1)

Jesus speaks of Nathaniel "Behold an Israelite, in whom there is no deceit." (John 1:47)

We hope that God will say of each of us at the end of our life here on earth, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in a few things, I will set you over many. Enter into the joy of the Lord." (Matthew 25: 21 and 23)

It is important to realize that these tributes are given by God, with the full understanding of the individual involved.

On the other hand, our human tributes can be very faulty.

Paul's Letters

In most of the letters of Paul, he starts with a greeting to the person or persons he's writing to, then continues with a thanksgiving prayer related to the good things those people are doing.

If you plan to write a tribute, or give someone a tribute, especially in public, or want some more ideas what to say in a thank you card, or how to pray for someone, there's some beautiful examples of tributes right towards the beginning of most of Paul's letters, usually within the first chapter or two.

Paul's Letter to Philemon

We find a good example of a tribute in the writings of Paul the Apostle, especially in his short, one chapter, 25 verse letter to Philemon.

Philemon is to a man we hardly know in history, except that Paul wrote this short letter to him.

As we see in the greeting (versus 1-3), Paul was actually writing to a group of people in addition to Philemon.

Then, in the next four versus, as Paul focuses more on Philemon, we see a beautiful example of a Christian tribute.

  • "I always thank God when I pray for you, Philemon,
  • "because I keep hearing of your trust in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God's people.
  • "You are generous because of your faith. And I am praying that you will really put your generosity to work, for in so doing you will come to an understanding of all the good things we can do for Christ.
  • "I myself have gained much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because your kindness has so often refreshed the hearts of God's people." (NLT Philemon 1:4-7)

A Word of Prayer

"I always thank God when I pray for you, Philemon."

Here we see the heart of Paul, himself a pastor. He was a missionary who had the care and solicitude of many churches.

He addresses Philemon as a co-worker. Whether Philemon was a pastor himself, or an elder, or simply a lay leader, we don't know. We do know that the members of the church met in Philemon's house.

Why Paul Prays

"Because I keep hearing of your trust in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God's people."

Paul is great in the sight of God, because he took everything to God in prayer. David is great in the sight of God, because he also prayed to God about everything in his life – the good the bad and the ugly. We see this in the Psalms of David.

We're supposed to be friends of God. God should be our closest friend, before everyone else. Because everyone else, even our "closest friends" are human, can't be with us all the time, and will fail or disappoint us at one time or other.

From Paul's example, when we hear news, good or bad, this is material to bring to God, and tell him about it. Because we can tell God everything. (He knows it all anyway, but He wants us to develop a relationship with Him, for our own good and safety.)

Let's say we hear about a natural disaster, or a big accident, and many people are hurt or killed. It is always appropriate to pray for them and send them our best love and wishes, even from a long distance, because God in us, is also there, right at the scene of the disaster.

So if we hear good or bad news about the pastor, this is something we should pray about first, not gossip about.

When you gossip, you're talking to the wrong people.

A Letter of Thanks

"I always thank God when I pray for you, Philemon."

Paul had a lot of people who caused him many headaches, and many times in his letters he says so. But not Philemon.

Paul kept hearing good reports about Philemon, how he trusted in the Lord Jesus and loved all of God's people.

Paul opens this tribute with the words, "I always thank God…"

Wow! What a man Philemon must have been! How faithful and dedicated.

Oh, that we could always live in such a way, that people could always pray this way about us.

Why Paul Thanks

"...Because I keep hearing of your trust in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God's people."

Philemon was a good man. He had a good heart, a good spirit, a good attitude, which obviously must have been seen by others because of his good actions and good deeds, for people to give such a good report to Paul.

If Philemon had not been a good man, Paul would not have opened this letter to him this way. Paul would probably have corrected him, as he does to some people in other letters, such as the letter to the Corinthians.

So it is important, when giving a tribute, to make sure the person deserves it.

That is why it is so important that a tribute be based on the truth.

For example, just because a person is a pastor, doesn't mean they deserve a tribute. Jesus warns us of wolves in sheep's clothing. Jesus wasn't afraid to curse some of the religious leaders of his day for their wicked practices.

And this was true not only back then, but also now.

True, we are all sinners. Yes, we all need to repent, even daily. God knows even good people fall. Solomon writes, "For a just man shall fall seven times and shall rise again." (DR Proverbs 24:16)

However, there are some pastors, some churches, that need to repent first, and change the direction they are going, as we see in the Book of Revelations, before they can honestly receive the praise of God and men.

More Examples of Tributes - Revelations, Chapters 2 and 3.

Further examples of tributes - or corrections – of churches and their pastors, are found in the words of our Lord Himself speaking to the seven churches in the Book of Revelations, chapters 2 and 3.

To some of these churches and pastors, Jesus had nothing good to say except warnings, and what would happen if those warnings were not heeded.

To some of these churches and pastors, Jesus had everything good to say.

And to most of them, it's a little bit of both.

So again, if you want to go deeper in this area, and grow a lot spiritually in these areas yourself, there's a lot of food for thought in these messages of Christ to the 7 pastors.

The Warning of Christ

There's also food for thought how Christ said the world would not give him or his followers the acknowledgment they deserve, but instead, would hate him.

Just a few examples to research are John 5:28-30, 41-47, John 7:1-9, and John 15:19.

So yes, there are many people getting praises and tributes, including some pastors, who don't deserve it ...

... while many true followers of Christ who are now scorned, will get well-deserved everlasting tribute from God and all the citizens of heaven.

Now back to Paul's tribute to Philemon.

Paul's Position

One of the most astonishing things to consider in these examples of tributes is Paul's position.

I don't mean as a superior - which he was. But even then, it's something to consider, his good example in this area. That a good leader always recognizes the hard work of his subjects, and not always the other way around.

But actually, I mean his physical position. Paul was in prison. True, Paul is asking a favor from a friend. (Asking him to take Onesimus, a run-away slave, back, not as a slave anymore, but as a brother in Christ.)

You know, Paul could have felt sorry for himself, could have held a little "pity party".

This letter shows the heart of Paul. Just as he commends Philemon for thinking of God and others, Paul himself is thinking of Philemon and Onesimus more than himself.

He could have asked Philemon to pray for his freedom from prison, but he is thinking more about the freedom of a slave.

He could have boasted how many churches he started, but he is writing to a church, no doubt pretty small, if they were able to meet in Philemon's house.

The fact that Paul is thinking of the good of others more than himself is confirmed when he writes, "I really wanted to keep him [Onesimus] here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. But I didn't want to do anything without your consent." (NLT Philemon 1: 13-14)

In looking at these examples of tributes, consider that often the one giving the tribute may be in the better position and really should be receiving the tribute.

Paul himself said "You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " Acts 20:35

Paul's Call to Action

"You are generous because of your faith. And I am praying that you will really put your generosity to work, for in so doing you will come to an understanding of all the good things we can do for Christ."

You might say that Paul was "buttering – up" Philemon - just a little bit. That's because, he was going to ask a very difficult thing of Philemon. He was asking Philemon to receive back Onesimus, who had been Philemon's slave and who had run away (and tradition says he had possibly stolen some goods from Philemon's house), and to take him back in, not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.

So Paul was praising the kindness and generosity of Philemon, to ask him a super-kind and super-generous favor.

"That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do, but because of our love, I prefer just to ask you. So take this as a request from your friend Paul, an old man, now in prison for the sake of Christ Jesus. My plea is that you show kindness to Onesimus." (NLT Philemon 1:8–10)

A Call to Action

And this brings us to one of the most important parts of a tribute.

The purpose of a tribute is not for a person to sit on their laurels and get a big head.

And especially not, stop all the good they're doing. If we're still living on earth, there's much good to be done and work to accomplish.

A good tribute has a call to action. This gives purpose and meaning to a tribute.

We should have a good purpose for everything we do, and a tribute, especially a public one, is no exception.

The call to action, obviously, is for those still living here on earth. That includes you and me. And, that includes God.

Calling on God and His Blessings

First of all, it's a call to God to take action. That's the power of prayer - which is simply, talking to God as our best friend, which He should be. In prayer we call upon God to take action.

Prayer is putting God to work.

And as our best friend, we can and should ask God's blessing in everything we do. And yes, God is alive here on earth, and we know this by faith.

In a tribute - make sure it's done appropriately and reverently - we can call upon the Lord to bless, lead, guide, encourage, reward, etc, the recipient(s).

Encouragement and Inspiration

Secondly, a tribute's call to action is addressed to us humans living here on earth.

In a funeral tribute, for example, the call to action should be for those living to follow a good example and inspiration of the person who has died. And / or to join in prayer asking God to reward the departed loved one. And /or join in prayer asking the blessing and comfort of God upon those who are grieving the loss of the loved one.

In a tribute to someone still alive, the call to action can be an encouragement for that person to continue in the good work they are doing.

And for the rest of us, the call to action can be an encouragement, an inspiration, for all the hearers (or readers) to do likewise.

Thank your stars!

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