Overcoming Sin through Christ: Flattery

 

Overcoming Sin through Christ

A Comprehensive List of Sins

(Alphabetically Arranged)

Richard Hollerman

The plan of this study is simple.  We will look at a large number of sins, one by one, alphabetically.  We will define the sin, describe it, and comment on it, along with noticing Scripture references on the particular entry.  Some illustrations will be offered along with the description.

Flattery

We’ve all been in conversations when someone flattered—even insincerely flattered—another person. Some people are known for their excessive flattery while others occasionally engage in this sinful verbal expression. Have you been guilty of flattery and maybe later became aware of what you had done? Since we think that people like to hear wonderful things about them, we all have a temptation to engage in this subtle sin!

We’ve all been the object of flattery or we have engaged in flattery ourselves.  To flatter means “to compliment excessively and often insincerely, especially in order to win favor. . . . To please or gratify the vanity of.”[1]  It means “to try to please by complimentary remarks or attention. . . . to praise or compliment insincerely, effusively, or excessively.”[2] Sincere compliments do have a place in expressing love and showing appreciation for a person’s good qualities and a job well done.  But insincere flattery must be rejected.

David gives various characteristics of the wicked, including the statement, “They flatter with their tongue” (Psalm 5:9b).  He also refers to the godly person who goes astray: “They speak falsehood to one another; with flattering lips and with a double heart they speak” (12:2).  He goes on to say, “May the LORD cut off flattering lips, the tongue that speaks great things” (v. 3). 

Solomon says that the harlot uses flattery in order to seduce the unsuspecting man: “With her flattering lips she seduces him” (Proverbs 7:21b).  How often someone using flattering speech has caused another to fall into sexual immorality.  Solomon also declares, “A flattering mouth works ruin” (26:28).  Indeed, it does!

In the New Testament, the scribes and chief priests attempted to flatter the Lord Jesus Himself in order to gain advantage.  They “sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch him in some statement” (Luke 20:20).  Notice the way they began their approach: “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any but teach the way of God in truth.  Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (v. 21).  Jesus “detected their trickery” (v. 23).  Matthew says, “Jesus perceived their malice, and said, ‘Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?’” (Matthew 22:18; cf. Mark 12:15).  Jesus could see that they were merely using flattery to make Him favorable toward them.  In reality, they were hypocrites who had no interest in truth. They were actually trying to destroy Him.

The apostle Paul knew that many teachers traveled about with impure and covetous motives.  He attempted to distance himself from these insincere false teachers: “We never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness” (1 Thessalonians 2:5).  The apostle warns against these false teachers by saying, “Such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetite; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Romans 16:18).  They seek to make people favorable to them by flattering them—by saying good and pleasant and “smooth” things to those they wish to deceive.  Jude also says that certain false teachers have a practice of “flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage” (v. 16), or “showing favoritism to gain an advantage” (ESV).

Do you flatter people for some personal advantage?  Do you flatter a young woman or young man in order to receive their attention? If you compliment a woman for her beauty or a man on his strength, are you seeking an advantage for yourself?  (There are several reasons why this type of flattery would be wrong.) Do you also flatter people to make them like you or to make them side with you on an issue?  Flattery is hypocritical and we must shun it in our desire to be sincere.

 



[1] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[2] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

 

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