For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness, God is witness. — Paul
The very first case of flattery on earth was when Adam and Eve fell, the result of listening to the enticing words, “Ye shall be as gods,” and which proved the truth of “a Muttering mouth worketh ruin” (Prov. 26:28). Flatterer is a false prophet, a black man in a white robe who has transformed himself into an angel of light. He knows how to put on an appearance more beautiful than the reality. A very confident guide he pretends to be. One day, while talking to and walking with him, Christian and Hopeful heard a slithery, snaky movement in the grass, felt a whip-lash grip on their ankles, and before another breath, both were up-ended, hanging suspended by their feet in mid-air with a net falling all around them. Attempts to get free only more entangled them. With that, the white robe fell off the black man, revealing who he really was. Then they saw, too, how far astray they had been led. But there they were abandoned, crying in their misery. Finally a Shining One appeared, carrying a whip of small cords. He cut them loose and put them back on the right road again. Then the interrogation began. Where did you stay last night? With the four shepherds on the Delectable Mountains. Didn’t the shepherds give you a note of direction for your way? Yes, true. But didn’t you, every so often, read the directions? No. Why not? We forgot. Did the shepherds warn you against Flatterer? Yes, but we did not think the man we met could be he.
Flattery is a sin against the ninth commandment. Just to see what company this sin keeps, read what the Larger Catechism lists as the sins forbidden by the ninth commandment: “all prejudicing of the truth, and the good name of our neighbor as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, out-facing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calls for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful or equivocal expression, to the prejudice of truth or justice; speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, tale-bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh and partial censuring misconstruing intentions, words and actions; FLATTERING, vainglorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or
too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults; hiding, excusing or extenuating of sins when called to a confession; unnecessarily discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors; receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavoring or desiring to impair it. rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report; and practicing or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others such things as procure an ill name.”
In this list, just before flattery, you find talebearing, and in a connection with very evil implications. “He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets; therefore, meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips” (Prob 20:19). The talebearer worms his way into the secrets of the unwary, and by flattery gains his materials for talebearing. He flatters those present to get material for gossip about those absent. Then he will go out and sow in people’s minds seeds of jealousy. Flatterers quickly turn talebearers. “Do not be familiar with them, nor give them a hearing when they vend their tales and reveal their secrets, for you may be sure they will betray your secrets too, and tell tales of you.” “When the wolf licks the lamb he is preparing to wet his tongue in its blood and to whet his teeth on its hones.” It is his way, as Joab with Abner and Amasa, to kiss and kill. Flattery is the sign of the tavern where deceit is the bar-tender. Therefore we need to sing and pray,
O Lord, be Thou my helper true.
For just and godly men are few;
The faithful who can find?
From truth and wisdom men depart,
With flattering lips and double heart,
They speak their evil mind.
The lips that speak the truth to hide,
The tongues of arrogance and pride,
That boastful words employ,
False-speaking tongues that boast their might,
That own no law, that know no right,
Jehovah will destroy.
“It is worthy of observation that flattering lips, and tongues speaking proud things are classed together. The fitness of this is clear, for they are guilty of the same vice. The first flatters another, and second flatters himself. In both cases a lie is in their right hands. One generally imagines that flatterers are such mean parasites, so cringing and fawning, that they cannot he proud; but the wise man will tell you that while all pride is truly meanness, there is in the very lowest meanness no small degree of pride. Caesar’s horse is even more proud of carrying Caesar than Caesar is of riding him. The mat on which the emperor wiped his shoes, boasts vaingloriously, crying out, ‘I cleaned the imperial boots!’ None are so detestably domineering as the little creatures who creep into office by clinging to the great. Those are bad times, indeed, in which those obnoxious beings are numerous and powerful” (C. H. Spurgeon, Treas, of David, I, 159).
Sisera was flattered, Jael praised. There is a difference. Praise has its place, but flattery is a sin. The trouble is we love praise and are inclined to be easily flattered. There is the danger. For flattery is cover for a trap. One man expressed it, “A man whom it is proper to praise cannot be flattered, and a man who can be flattered ought not to be praised.” This ought to remind us of the man Christ Jesus and just how far different from Him we are. He ought always to be praised, and cannot be praised too much; whereas, on the contrary, we deserve no praise, but the very reverse. “If thou shouldst mark our sins, who then could stand?” But we were thinking of Jael. “She brought him butter in a lordly dish” (Judges 5:25). Whether she intended it or not, Sisera by this entertainment was flattered. That is, he was deceived by the lavish gesture. He thought he was getting the comfort and hospitality of an honored guest. For wasn’t he being entertained like a lord? The impression he received was that Jael ought to be and actually thought herself highly honored to pay him this respect. So his pounding heart was quietened and his suspicions were tranquilized. He asked for a drink of water. A more intoxicating drink was pressed to his lips. For he had hardly become comfortably settled in a quiet corner when he had become inebriated with flattery. The man already had been pierced through both head and heart with the nail of flattery. That nail rusts the heart and puts reason in a delirium. “She brought him butter in a lordly dish.” When he took it his foot went treacherously down on a slippery place. “The words of his (Flatterer’s) mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords” (Psalm 55:21). Many a man has met his downfall because unable to stand against the powerful weapon of flattery. That is the weapon, among others, of the seductress. “The lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil, but her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword” (Prov. 5:3-4).
Flatterer belongs to a long dynasty, beginning with the first in that line, Satan, and culminating in his last tool, the Antichrist (Dan. 11:21, 32, 34). Even now there are many antichrists who by “the flattery of the tongue” turn many away to a counterfeit gospel. Flattering words sometimes come in an unknown tongue. We ought not be surprised that the Roman Church now falls head over heels in love with its own “tongues movement.” For it has, for centuries, delivered its religion in a strange language not understood by the common people, by which they have been kept in ignorance. Now with that practice much in the past, an ecstatic tongues-speaking, nevertheless, takes it place. Yet the same absence of edification prevails and remains.
Flattery, perhaps in its crudest form, is called “flapdoodle.” The dictionary defines that as “the food on which fools are fed.”
The cure for all these evils is to be had in the Word of God read, preached, taught and studied in our own language. The doctrine of the pure gospel of Christ is the alone antidote for all errors, heresies, superstition, idolatries, flatteries and deceptions. In it you have vitamins which you can safely take in massive doses. Take them and be well fortified and immunized.