Sometimes my deepest thinking is while showering. Weird, maybe. I don’t know. Today, as I towel dried my hair and was kind of “venting” to the Lord, I saw something in myself that peeves me. Irritates me. I don’t just see it in myself, I see it around me, as well. Everywhere.
Check out Proverbs 12:3 (the message)
May the Lord silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue…
Flattery: excessive, insincere praise. pandering. (Dictionary.com)
See a problem yet?
Pander: a person who caters to or profits from the weaknesses or vices of others. (Dictionary.com)
When we give lavish praise we can ask ourselves…is this praise sincere? Do I really mean what I’m saying? Or is it excessive? Have we gone from a sincere compliment to foolhardy pandering? Why does it matter?!
Let me give you a scenario. Real life. Not too long ago I witnessed an introduction. I wasn’t part of it, just happened to be in the same room. Once the dots were connected about how they knew each other, a comment was made about one person being a “big fan” of this other person’s adult child. (I hope that makes sense!) I remember how my heart skipped a proverbial beat when I heard this statement. It didn’t feel right. Hmmm…but why? I would say it even kind of hurt my feelings in a way for this guy that had garnered a “big fan.”
The reason is because it is in fact easy to see the fruits, faithfulness and love for Jesus in this young man’s life. He’s humble. And he will have the most impact for Christ if he stays that way.
What will happen to this young man, however, as flattering lips continue to pour out excessive praise? Matter of fact, isn’t the praise misdirected? I remember thinking how I hoped this innocent comment came from a heart who could easily see the source of the goodness in this young man. Jesus. I think it would be better for all of us if Jesus got the credit for our good fruit. Our faithfulness. What seems like gushing praise is in fact often flattery. And it’s wrong because without even realizing it, we are letting the devil use our excessive and misdirected praise to sow the seeds of pride in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Am I suggesting we should not offer kind words of encouragement or gratitude? No, not at all. But I am suggesting we check our hearts and motives when we lavish our praises on one another. Because here is the truth: Flattery and pandering often come as a form of manipulation. We need someone to meet our need or continue to meet our need so we give them excessive praise, even insincere praise. Often those who are affected the most are people-pleasers and their greatest vice is praise. So, in a slow dance we trade humility for approval or a sense of importance. Sigh. Take a minute to think it over. You might not think you do it, or you might not think you would succumb to it. But I have. On both counts. I’ve done it and I’ve succumbed to it without quite realizing what was happening. I mean is it really awesome what that person is doing or is it awesome they are doing what we wanted? Is it awesome to serve Christ or awesome to be recognized?
All I can say today is Jesus you are the only good in me. You are the only one ever producing any good in me. Jesus, I am never so faithful. You are faithful. I am never so wise and loving. You are wise and loving. Forgive me because there are times I absorb praise rather than deflect to You. And there are times I am excessive rather than truthful in the praise I give. I realize today how absorbing flattery brings with it the pressure to live up to the words spoken. I can never live up to those words, Jesus.
It is Jesus who is good. If I need any proof I need only look at the habits I so easily slip back into when I succumb to the temptation to self-inflate. You know what? The guy who made a “big fan” is faithful and has a servant’s heart. But I know it’s because of Jesus in him. The credit does not belong to him. And any credit given him truly has the potential to harm him.
I believe we would all do each other a favor if we speak truthfully. Not rationalize flattery in our attempts to get what we need from others or manipulate circumstances. We would do well to live as God-pleasers (not people-pleasers) so that we can easily recognize flattering lips and resist the temptation to absorb rather than deflect.
Jesus is good. Just Jesus. It is only in the rain of His love, grace and presence that my crusty heart is cultivated into something worthwhile. It is only in the brilliant light of His truth I see what is and what isn’t about my life. About my place in Him and in the world around me. It is only in His loving kindness soothing my hurts and wounds, forgiving my many sins, that I even begin to reflect His glory. Every measure of praise and credit belongs to my Father. My Savior. The One Who bled for me so He could rescue me.
May all excessive praise be given to the One Who loves us excessively.