I received an email about “flattery” some time ago upon which I am basing this teaching. Though I have not copied the email word for word, it inspired much of the following.
The email started with a man who met a couple that had a strong influence on him when he was very young. This young man was beginning his musical career, and the husband was a classical guitar teacher. It took years before the young man understood how important this man’s input and encouragement had meant to him and his career.
The wife had quite the opposite influence on him. On a regular basis, she would say things like this to the young man, “When you walk in the room, you light the whole place up.” and “It‘s wonderful to have you here.” That sounds innocent at first, but after months of similar flattering statements, the young man began to hang on her every word.
Then one day, when she was mad at her husband, she greeted the young man with, “Oh my, is there something wrong? You look so pale, are you all right?” Immediately the young man felt sick and was completely under her control. She then began to unload and share her anger against her husband with the young man, and in a short time, the young man was offended at the man he once respected and loved.
As a result, the time that God had intended for the young man to be mentored and trained by this man was cut short by the woman’s negative opinion of her husband. Her opinion became the young man’s opinion and blocked his ability to receive from the man. The young man missed some of the best years of his training by letting flattery control him. Flattery almost took him off Father’s Plan for his life.
You may feel you would have had more discernment and/or been stronger than that young man and wouldn’t be taken in so easily. Perhaps you’re right. But, satan, the enemy, knows our weaknesses and will take advantage of us every chance he gets. It’s time to become aware of this tactic and gain victory over it.
What Is Flattery?
Because flattery or compliments in some form seem to be a part of our everyday lives, it would be instructive as well as constructive to look at this a bit closer.
The word flattery in the Greek is kolakeria which means, a motive of self-interest. That indicates if someone uses “flattery” on you, they probably are after something from you.
On the other hand, when someone says they like the way you are doing something, that is an encouragement, which will cause you to continue to pursue that thing and become more accomplished in it.
The Difference Between
Encouragement and Flattery
The dictionary’s definition of encouragement is: to inspire with hope, courage, or confidence. The Greek word for encouragement is parakaleo which means, to call near or invoke and comfort someone.
The Scriptures persuade us by stating, “… encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:25 RSV), but they also warn us about flattery, “… by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.” (Romans 16:18 RSV)
When someone is struggling through a trial, we are to encourage that person with hope. We do not like to see anyone suffering. Thus, we must be discerning and sensitive to The Holy Spirit, lest there may be a tendency for our encouragement to step over the line from encouragement into flattery easily. Our intentions may be right. We desire to spare them. As a result, we may try to help them organize their thoughts (flattery through control) and help manage their feelings (flattery through manipulation). I encourage you to always strive to be led by The Holy Spirit. He will give you the words to say that points that person towards Jesus. Your flesh never has the answers. Jesus IS The Answer.
Was Peter trying to control The Lord by saying he didn’t like the idea of Him going to Jerusalem to suffer? “Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (Matthew 16:22)
To rebuke means “to forbid,” but it also means “to show honor, to raise the price of, to admonish.” Was Peter telling Jesus that there was a higher significance and importance for Him to stay with His disciples than there was by His dying? In his own reasonings, it would seem so. How could Jesus die and still fulfill the purposes of God? Does this sound so far-fetched? How many times a day do you and I try to reason with or figure God out?
We know Peter was hurting at the thought of his Friend, Jesus, his Savior, dying. The question is, was he willing to use any ploy he could to stop the pain? Was Peter using manipulative flattery with the hope of controlling the mind of Jesus, The Savior of the world? I don’t believe so, not deliberately. Yet, that is how deceptive satan is. Peter, though innocent of knowing who and what was operating through him, did not stop it from happening. Jesus Christ, our example, through a discerning spirit, dealt with that spirit the only truly effective way. He commanded satan to get behind Him.
The word flattery in the Hebrew is pathah, and the definition of that is pretty much the same as the Greek. It’s a primitive root, usually figuratively (in a mental or moral sense) to be (causatively, make) simple or (in a sinister way) delude; allure; deceive; enlarge; entice; and/or persuade.
The Intent Of Flattery
The intent of flattery is to make a person simple or just delude and deceive them. To “make someone simple” is an attempt to strip them of their astuteness and discernment. There is great power in flattery and freewheeling compliments. That power is almost always used to control or manipulate in some way.
Flattery Sabotages Trust
“Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you very well know. And God is our witness that we were not just pretending to be your friends so you would give us money.” (1 Thessalonians 2:5 NLT) Each one of us has been guilty of flattering or “buttering up” someone for something at some time or another in our lives. Or perhaps we felt it necessary to cover up our real intentions in certain situations or relationships. A few examples might be:
Employee — to — Employer
Employer — to — Employee
Wife — to — Husband
Husband — to — Wife
Child — to — Parent
Parent — to — Child
Friend — to — Friend
Neighbor — to — Neighbor
Co-worker — to — Co-worker
Student — to — Teacher
Teacher — to — Student
The list could go on and on because it includes all mankind.
The Worst Kind Of Flattery
It’s one thing to try to control another person by using a flattering tongue, but it falls into a whole different category to try to deceive or mislead God Almighty. When it comes to Jehovah God, there can be no charade, no overused cliché’ to try to bring Him under our control.
Look at the children of Israel trying to mislead, dupe, charm, and/or win God over with a flattering tongue. Their hearts were not right with Him, and as a result, they tried to control Him. “They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer. 36) But they flattered him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues. 37) Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not true to his covenant.” (Psalm 78:35–37 RSV)
The Lord spoke to me in October of 1989, and I believe this still holds true today. He said, “The main reason My People have no Power in their prayer lives and no effectiveness in their day–to–day living is because of their unknown manipulation of Me.” I encourage you to pause a minute and think about that.
The dictionary defines manipulation as skillful handling or treatment, clever use of influence, change made for one’s own purpose or advantage. This falls into the same category as flattery.
God is NOT like a man who thinks He is Worthy of receiving compliments. God IS Worthy of receiving Praise, Adoration, Respect, and Worship. You don’t speak words of Praise, Adoration, Respect, and Worship because God requests to hear them. You speak words of Praise, Adoration, Respect, and Worship because you believe them to be true.
We need The Wisdom of God in our lives like never before. We need to be able to discern between a flattering tongue and encouragement. “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7) Without understanding, we will not know what to do when someone speaks flattering things to us. And James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)
Based on Proverbs 4:7 and James 1:5
Father, I am sorry for the times I have tried to control and manipulate You. I am also sorry for trying to control and manipulate ________ and ________ with a flattering tongue. I did not understand how much of an impact this has on their lives; it is not my desire to impart any more defilement into anyone through a flattering tongue.
Lord, I seek Your Wisdom, You said Wisdom is the principal thing, the most important thing I should have in my life, and You know what I need more than I know what I need. Father, I am asking You for Your Wisdom, and with that Wisdom, please give me Understanding.
Please Help me never to try to manipulate or control You to get my own way again. Help me to recognize the difference between the lusts of my flesh, and the desires of my heart that have been placed there by You.
I am also asking You to help me to recognize and discern a flattering tongue — both mine if I should start to speak with one, and another, if one is spoken to me.
Please Help me to speak only encouragement to others that will inspire hope, courage, and confidence in You and Your Ways. I believe because I have asked, according to Your Word, You will liberally give Your Wisdom and Understanding to me. In the name of Jesus, Thank You, Father. Amen.
The Lord may also speak to some of you to go and ask the person you have offended through a flattering tongue for forgiveness. If this is the case, I encourage you to be quick to do so.
Be aware that all attributes of The Most High God are capitalized out of love, respect, and reverence for The Trinity. Also, be aware that the name satan, related names, and attributes are not capitalized. I choose not to acknowledge or exemplify him even to the point of going against grammatical rules.