Proverbs 28:23 (NASB)
He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue.
Would you rather be criticized or complimented? Most of us will immediately ask, “Criticized for what?” rather than wondering if the compliment is sincere or just empty flattery. Our fallen nature craves attention and validation and is not quick to question the sincerity or motive behind such words. To make matters worse, that same nature takes a defensive posture when anyone dares to question our actions or words or motives. Sadly, despite growing older, it seems we can still exhibit the traits of a temperamental child.
Flattery, by its Hebrew definition, is rarely true. The one offering it almost always has an ulterior motive – a motive that has nothing to do with the well-being of the one they offer it to and everything to do with positioning themselves for some sort of advantage. Flattery is nothing short of manipulation and the bible condemns it repeatedly as a sin (Ps. 5:9; Rom 16:18). Do you use compliments to advance your agenda in the workplace, in your relationships, or even at church? If you offer words of praise that are lies or just maneuvers, then you need to see them for what they are and repent.
A godly rebuke exists to point someone back to the Word of God and to walking in holiness. Jesus rebuked people regularly. Sometimes he would offer a rebuke to entire groups of people like the Sadducees and Pharisees (Mth. 23:13) or those about to stone the woman caught in adultery (Jn. 8:7). Other times his rebukes were directed at smaller groups like His own disciples or even to individuals like Peter (Mk. 8:33) or the rich young ruler (Mt. 19:21). The goal of a godly rebuke is always restoration…never condemnation. Condemnation is the Devil’s language and should never be used against a fellow Christian.
We all need to be willing to reject flattery and receive a godly rebuke…a posture that is antithetical to our fallen nature. Additionally, we need to be the kind of friend that is a truth teller rather than a deceiver…one who can be counted on to help build a firm foundation rather than a false sense of security.