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A man who flatters: Proverbs 29:5



NOTE: Beginning in August 2022, Trinity Reformed Church worked through Proverbs 29 verse by verse for our confession of sin during our liturgy. This post is the fifth in a series of short articles based on those homilies.

Today’s passage for our confession of sin is Proverbs 29, verse 5:

A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.

Proverbs 29:5

Flattery is a deadly trap. But what is flattery? It is “excessive and insincere praise, given especially to further one’s own interests.”

OK, but why is insincere praise so deadly? The Apostle Paul gives us a fuller picture in Romans 16:17-18:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 

That sounds serious, but what does that have to do with flattery? Paul continues:

For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 

Flattery deceives the naive! Now, naive just means lacking in experience. So, who are the most naive people in this sanctuary? Your children.

Fathers, mothers, can you flatter your own children? Of course you can. You can treat every bad behavior as merely a personality quirk. Or you can turn a blind eye to something that might be a sin. 

And children, and young adults, you can even flatter yourselves. You can act as though homeschooling, or postmillennialism, or Calvinism, or even weekly communion, makes you a better class of Christian that the average evangelical. Don’t fall for it.

You were raised in a Christian home. Good! But that means you all are expected to know and believe that without Jesus you are thoroughly wicked. Don’t flatter yourselves! You need to repent and believe in Jesus just like the rest of the church through all of history.

The antidote for flattery is to always tell yourself the truth. You are a sinner. But Jesus died for sinners. So do not look at your blessings. Look through them to Christ, and continue to look to Him in faith.

Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash

  • Jon Swerens is a lifelong journalist and has been an elder at Trinity Reformed Church since 2021.