Pseudo Praise

Psalms 12:1
Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts (v.2).

When Hitler sought to placate Austrian minister
Kurt von Schuschnigg by complimenting and
praising him publicly, a disgusted Winston
Churchill muttered, “When a snake wants to eat his
victims, he first covers them in saliva.” The Bible calls
Hitler’s use of insincere praise flattery—words said and
actions done to gain favor with others and advantage
over them. Though some write very favorably of flattery,
the Bible does not speak of it in favorable terms. In fact,
it says that flattery is deceitful.

In Psalm 12, David lamented the deceitfulness of
flattery. He asked God for help because he noticed a
serious rip in the moral fabric of his own community.
One of the indicators of the tear was that people were
using flattery to lie to and deceive one another. With the
intentions of gaining favor and an advantage with their
neighbors, they were using beautiful words of praise and
encouragement to cover up the ugly intentions (attacks
and traps) of their hearts (Psalm 55:20-21; Jeremiah 9:8).
David was so disturbed by this deception that he asked
God to cut off or silence all flattering lips (Psalm 12:2).

He asked God to intervene because he knew the results
of this type of deception: deep relational hurt and ruined
relationships (Proverbs 26:28, 29:5).

Instead of covering people with the saliva of flattery,
we should imitate Job’s actions (Job 32:21-22). Let’s
embrace honesty and cover others in the fragrance of gracious truth, even if that
means wounding friends to refine their character (Proverbs 27:6). We’re servants
of Christ, and we must seek His approval over the approval of men. May we
please God, who will one day evaluate the purity and sincerity of our hearts,
words, and actions.

—Marvin Williams

Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1 to see how Paul encouraged his readers
to live out integrity— not flattery—in their relationships.

How is flattery a form of lying and deception? What are some things
you can do to focus more on the approval of God versus the approval
of people?