Why is Flattery a Sin?

If I were to challenge you to quickly give me a list of biblical sins, would you include flattery? When we think of the many different kinds of sin noted in scripture, we often overlook the sin of flattery because it’s subtle, sounds positive, and makes the hearer feel good. Yet flattery is indeed a sin. Why? Because at the heart of flattery is both deceitfulness and manipulation.

Tearing One Another Down

Paul warns us in Romans 16:17-18, “Note those who cause divisions and offenses…and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” It’s fascinating to notice that the end result of a silver-tongued flatterer is “divisions and offenses.” In other words, they drive people apart and pit them against one another. A flatterer isn’t looking out for your best interest…they’re looking out for their own.

Proverbs 29:5 warns, “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.” What kind of net? The kind of net you use to trap something. Beware of someone who flatters because they are laying a trap for you. They can’t be trusted.

Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver.
— Edmund Burke

Consider also that flattery is a character trait of the wicked. Psalm 5:9 describes, “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is destruction; their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue.” Ouch! That is not how I would want to be described.

Building One Another Up

Instead, our speech should reflect the work of Jesus Christ in our lives. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:15, we, “speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” In other words, a mature believer is one who speaks words of truth and love (not one without the other).

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.
— Thomas Jefferson

Finally, Ephesians 4:29 states, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” A follower of Jesus speaks words that edify (build up) those who hear; a flatterer lays a trap to destroy the person who is listening. As Christians, flattery should have no place in our lives.

I suppose that means flattery isn’t very flattering for the person who does it!


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