November 23, 2020
The administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing.
If you aren’t familiar with the story of Daniel and the lion’s den, here’s a quick summary. Daniel, a Hebrew in exile in Babylon, has so distinguished himself in his official role that the King is about to put him in charge of the entire kingdom! The other officials, out of jealousy, create a plan to kill Daniel. This conversation with the King is the first step in their plan, and they use a strategy we’ve all seen or experienced. They begin with flattery.
If you are a parent, you may have experienced it this way. A child comes up and says in the sweetest of voices, “Mommy, you’re the best mommy in the whole world.” What follows is almost inevitably a request. From our youngest age, we see flattery as a means to getting our way. The cheesiest pick-up lines always include flattery.
Are you a parking ticket? Because you’ve got FINE written all over you.
Are you a magician? Because when I look at you, you make everyone else disappear.
I must be in a museum because you are a work of art.
I was physically cringing as I typed those, but they make a point. Flattery is paying a compliment in order to get what you want. Whether it’s a child requesting a snack, a guy angling for a phone number, a co-worker trying to get a raise, or an instagram influencer trying to get attention, flattery is all over the place. Here’s what the book of Proverbs 29:5 says about flattery.
Those who flatter their neighbors are spreading nets for their feet.
How about you? Are you prone to flatter in an attempt to get ahead? Or are you susceptible to flattery out of insecurity or loneliness? In either case, it’s important to remember that flattery is our culture’s currency. We trade empty compliments – not to build each other up, but in order to achieve what we want. As people of faith, we have to determine to do better. Focus on sincerity in your words, and don’t chase affirmation in person or on your social media accounts. By learning to step outside of that cultural stream, you will be known as someone who speaks the truth, and who, like Daniel, cannot be swayed by manipulative words. From that foundation, when you speak of Jesus, your words will have the weight of character and honesty behind them. You will discover the ability to influence and guide – the very power flatterers try to wield but cannot.