Full of Nauseating Flattery

The title of this post finds its source in a personal letter John Calvin wrote to his good friend Guillaume Farel. Calvin had just a received letter from Geneva asking him return to the pastorate after having been expelled just a few years earlier. This letter included the following sentences:

O marvelous spectacle, the stone which the builders rejected is become the headstone of the corner. Come, then, my venerable father in Christ. The Lord has given you to us. All sigh for thee.

Consequently, when Calvin wrote Farel, he described the letter as being “full of nauseating flattery.”

It is difficult for me to believe that the majority of Christians would find such a letter nauseating. Some might raise an eyebrow up in concern but next to none would truly be nauseated by flattery. The 1828 version of Webster’s Dictionary defines nauseate, “as to become squeamish; to feel nausea; to turn away with disgust.” Flattery should sicken us. We should puke a little in our mouths every time it slithers across our path. However, we have been taught all our lives to cherish and employ the use of flattery in all of our communications. We have embraced the mantra of Mary Poppins instead of the clear teaching of Scripture. Consider just a few Bible verses on the wickedness of flattery:

  • “For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” Romans 16:1
  • “You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.” 1 Thessalonians 2:5
  • “Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet.” Proverbs 29:5
  • “These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” Jude 1:16
  • “He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.” Proverbs 28:23

Flattery is always used by ungodly men to mask true intentions. These men might be appear to be nice people but they are simply setting a snare by feeding your pride. Antisthenes wisely said, “It is better to fall among crows than flatterers; for those devour only the dead–these the living.” Steer as far away from them as possible. Ask God for two things. First, that the he would trained your hears to be nauseated by the sugary-venom that is flattery. Second, that he would remove flattery from you lips. The straight-forward loving rebuke of a friend, though they may seem harsh at the time, will accomplish more than sweet words of a flatterer.

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