The Friendless Flatterer
One of the most publicly and socially acceptable sins is flattery. That's why it is also such a dangerous sin. Consider this Yiddish proverb: "Flattery makes friends and truth makes enemies." But the friends made by flattery are not worth having at all.
True friendship comes through hard work, but so many of us are too easily satisfied with false friendship, the easy type of friendship that doesn't require too much of us (Jn. 15:13).
There is a game that has to be played in the church in the interests of personal advancement. Very often, a flatterer is a "friend" who, to quote Aristotle, "is your inferior, or pretends to be so."
Aristotle makes an important point: the flatterer should be your inferior, but almost always the flatterer is simply pretending to be so in order to get something from you. Flattery is selfish. It pretends to give, but in actual fact it takes, abuses, and controls.
Flattery is also so easily received. We love a good compliment, and will even believe a lie because of our pride. Spinoza said that "none are more taken in by flattery than the proud, who wish to be the first and are not."
Flattery is complimenting others to make yourself more likeable and perceptive. It is a form of lying. It breaks several commandments, especially the 6th, 8th, and 9th. Flattery is a form of manipulation that has selfishness written all over it.
Job's friend would not use flattery towards any person (Job 32:21). He'd probably lose his job in an organization where flattery can often not only be expected but demanded by the culture created by those in power.
People even retweet compliments made about them. Imagine that. It really happens. Maybe Ps. 12:3 or Prov. 27:2 would be good devotional reading before surfing the web?
There are solutions. Ask God to give you a handful of true friends, the types who will take Prov. 27:6 seriously. Ask God for friends who believe the promise of Prov. 28:23, as well as the warning of Prov. 29:5. Because, after all, there's a big difference between these types of friends and the friendships that are made for "political" purposes.
When the going gets tough, the flatterer gets going: he leaves you in your pit of despair so he can prey on someone else who will feed his evil desire.
I think - and this is very sad - there are many people who just don't have any friends. They may be generally well-liked in public, but they don't have friends who will tell them what they need to hear. They've placed themselves in positions where they simply only hear "yes".
Christ did not flatter his friends while he was on earth (Matt. 16:23; Lk. 24:25), and he doesn't do so now in heaven (Rev. 3:19).
Christian love always places Christ between me and the other person. It prevents me from having an unmediated relationship with the other. When I long for an unmediated relationship with the other - a relationship where Christ is is not between us - I always dominate and manipulate. I long for praise and I refuse to receive a rebuke. I manipulate the other and impose my will upon him/her. I use the other for my own evil devices. Without Christ's mediation, all relationships unravel and end up with me as the only one worthy of praise and adoration. This is why flattery is so evil: it severs Christ from the other and prevents the other from addressing me in him.
reformation21 is the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting reformation21 and the mission of the Alliance. Please donate here.