Don’t Fall for Flattery

Don't Fall for Flattery

 

 

Don’t Fall for Flattery

Friday, May 25, 2018
By Dr. Ray Rooney, Jr.
Reprinted from: American Family Association
 
 
…a flattering mouth works ruin (Proverbs 26:28).

Can anyone truthfully say that if given the choice they would choose criticism over flattery?  Even if we’re talking about criticism of the constructive kind?  I doubt it.

Fallen human nature craves affirmation.  We want to be told we made the right decision.  We yearn for a pat on the back.  We expect congratulations.  We demand recognition.  And in so doing, we set ourselves up for quite the rude awakening!

Have you ever wondered why Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25)?  Is it just about the allure of riches and the power that comes with them?  No, there’s more to it than that.  The great danger of worldly success is not merely the sudden availability of tools that wield a great deal of influence in the lives of others.  There’s also the added attractiveness of being constantly bombarded with praise and flattery.  If not handled properly that is every bit as much responsible for turning us away from God as the wealth itself.

The wealthy and powerful put themselves in a very precarious position when they begin to believe all the flattery heaped upon them on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis.  How could God Himself wield more power and influence than what everyone around the rich person is saying he or she already has?  With an ego that was already dying to be stroked (like all the rest of us), the rich can hardly brush aside the compliments being showered on them all the time.

That’s why it’s so hard to enter the kingdom of God if you’re rich.  It’s not the power as much as the praise that undoes the wealthy.  I mean, if everyone around you seems to be in awe of your intellect or business acumen or work ethic and doesn’t hesitate to tell you…what’s not to like?

Except for that verse lurking up there at the beginning of this blog.

Words of flattery are like baited fishhooks.  They offer the illusion of a gift but once consumed it’s too late when you realize you’ve been taken.

Marriages are routinely torn apart when an outside third party wants something.  So he offers compliments to the wife of another man as a gift of recognition.  Her husband seems to be more interested in golfing, hunting, or even work and has little to say to her by way of compliment.  So she receives the gift of flattery and by the time she realizes it wasn’t a gift but bait, it’s too late.

…a flattering mouth works ruin.

The business owner is constantly being told how smart, practical, and generous she is by those closest to her.  She started with nothing and has built it into something quite amazing.  It’s nice to hear the people she is around most of the day recognize her accomplishments.  But their gift of flattery is really just a mask for their own ambition and greed.  Their compliments lulled her into a false sense of security and trust and when the audit is done she is crushed by the reality of her business’s losses.  She took their baited flattery and now she’s bankrupt.

…a flattering mouth works ruin.

The freshman politician who arrives in Washington, D.C. as a member of Congress has a long history of political integrity.  He started off locally. Then won a statewide election.  Finally made it as a U.S. Senator or Representative.  He has a history of caring for his constituents and integrity.  That is why he kept winning elections.  But as soon as he got to D.C. the PAC’s, special interest groups, and caucuses all began whispering sweet nothings in his ear about how important he has become and how deserving he is of all they have to offer.  Now he represents his own interests and only checks in back home when it’s election season.  He’s become a cold-hearted narcissist now with a mistress and a few shady backroom deals under his belt.

…a flattering mouth works ruin.

Everyone was so proud of him.  He got saved at an early age, surrendered to the call of ministry, went to Bible College and Seminary and became a really good preacher and pastor.  His ministerial career seemed to authenticate God’s call on him and reflect the blessings of obedience.  He pastored some of the biggest churches in the state in his denomination.  He served on more and more boards, committees, and agencies until finally he was tapped to become a Superintendent.  It wasn’t long after that that his name was lifted up for the episcopacy.  And then all he heard was “chosen” by God and man.  Then something odd began to happen.  He spent less and less time with God and the Bible and became more and more busy around people like himself with bloated budgets and egos.  What he used to call sin in his early days of ministry had somehow been transformed by culture, his peers, and his mind into “rights.”  He lost his way.  He spurned the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  He didn’t even realize it when he stepped off the narrow path to life and stepped on to the broad path to destruction.  He’s a big man, for now…

…a flattering mouth works ruin.

Many who are reading this probably feel like these words are alien.  They’ve been put down, brow-beaten, and criticized their whole lives.  Hardly anyone has ever offered encouraging, much less flattering words.  You’re in the most danger!  You’re starved for recognition and appreciation which means it will be so much harder to be wary of what’s behind those flowery words and phrases when they finally do come.  The bitterness you experience when the fisherman sets the hook will be like none you’ve ever experienced.  The giver was really just a taker in disguise!

Others who read this will be tempted to think about all the good things people have been saying about you.  How dare I suggest that I know their true intentions when I don’t even know them at all.  I’m just another naysayer trying to rain on your parade.  Nope.  I don’t know you or the people who surround you.  But I do know human nature and I do know the Bible pretty decently.  And I’ve been both a purveyor of flattery (hoping it would profit my own ends) and I’ve been a recipient of it and was as devastated as anyone else when the taker set the hook.

John the Baptist came out of nowhere (literally).  In just a matter of weeks this guy who had spent most of his life in obscurity in the wilderness wearing weird clothes and eating honey and grasshoppers, rocketed to prominence, importance, and fame.  He attracted huge crowds and consequently the religious elite.  They asked him if he was the famous prophet Elijah returned from heaven and the fiery chariot.  They even asked if he was the promised Messiah of the Jewish people!  He was a nobody.  Now, he was being compared to some of the most elite people in Judaism.  He even got the attention of a king.  He baptized thousands (eventually even the Son of God Himself!) and had disciples.  Don’t you think his ego was being stroked by all the flattery being heaped upon him?

The day came when the disciples of John rushed to him to inform him that that Guy he had baptized before (Jesus) was outshining him and even drawing his own followers away.  Surely John would put a stop to that!?

Instead, the Baptist’s face softened and he likely smiled a bit and said to those worried that Someone was stealing his thunder, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

That is the only sound defense against the baited hook of flattery.  Whether it’s a married spouse receiving compliments from someone other than their spouse, a successful businessman or woman hearing nothing but praise from his or her hired hands, a politician being told that he or she deserves all the perks that come with the office (legal and moral or otherwise), or a preacher who is suddenly thrust into the national or even global spotlight surrounded by “yes” people whose only real job is to tell him how spiritual he is and how proud God must be of him (regardless of whether or not his leadership decisions are biblical), there is only one real defense.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

No one but Jesus died on the cross.  You didn’t and neither did I.  The more we allow praise and flattery to be heaped on us the fewer eyes are drawn to the cross of Christ.  The more we accept others’ praise the less Jesus is sought out.  The more we listen to flattering lips, the more Jesus becomes an afterthought to our already blessed lives.  The more you allow others to build you up, the less you need Jesus.  Long and hard will be the fall.

There’s no sin in receiving a compliment…until you think it deserved.

 

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