Like other good gifts from God, even the gift of encouragement has a sinister imitation: flattery. While at times looking very similar to encouragement, Scripture warns that flattery leads to selfish and destructive ends.
Lurking in the shadow of every good gift from God is a twisted perversion that seeks to imitate and destroy. These destructive copycats disguise themselves as good but are actually out to cause chaos and confusion. God creates healthy friendships as a gift, but sin turns them into something codependent or abusive. God blesses a person with a strong work ethic, but sin twists it so he becomes a work-a-holic. Patience can morph into passivity, a desire for kindness can lead to avoiding tough conversations, and a passion for unity can cause us to downplay truth. For every good gift of God, sin has an unhealthy perversion that leads to spoiled fruit.
One good gift of God is receiving an encouraging word. Over and over in Scripture God reminds us of the power of such words. We are told that “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Prov. 25:11). An anxious heart can weigh a person down, but “a good word makes him glad” (Prov. 12:25). Many of us grew up singing “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” but Scripture says otherwise: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Prov. 18:21).
However, like other good gifts from God, even the gift of encouragement has a sinister imitation: flattery. While at times looking very similar to encouragement, Scripture warns that flattery leads to selfish and destructive ends.
The Difference Between Encouragement and Flattery
It can be difficult to discern between encouraging words and flattery since the exact same phrase can be used for either. For example, two different people may say, “You are very gifted,” and yet one may be encouraging you while the other may be flattering you.