“A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”
False speech is destructive and both lying and flattery are forms of false speech. Lying, as we all know, is the reporting of untrue information. Flattery is deceptive praise that is used to manipulate the one being flattered. This morning’s Proverb reminds us that both lying and flattery are destructive because they come from hatred and hatred is always destructive.
Therefore, false speaking is never a benign thing. When we lie we are expressing a form of hatred and acting in a way that is against God and against His purposes. We are His people and members of His body. His purpose for His body is growth and maturity. False speech opposes this purpose.
Therefore false speech has no place in the Church. But as Christians, as members of Christ’s Body, it is not enough just to avoid lying or to keep from flattery. It is important to not do the wrong but at the same time we must be pursuing the right.
There is no neutral ground in the Christian life. For example, we are told to put off the old man AND to put on the new. We don’t stop after doing away with the old. We then adorn the new man, “created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”
So in the case of false speech, we must be a people who turn from lying AND engage in speaking the truth. Paul states this plainly in Ephesians: “Therefore putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.”
There cannot be neutral ground in this matter because speaking the truth is vital to the purpose of growth and maturity that God has for His church. Again, listen to the instruction given to us in the book of Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:11-15 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” There’s the purpose – the saints, us, are equipped for the mutual building up and growth of the Church.
Paul continues: “…that we should no longer be children [imature] tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of the deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ.”
Speaking the truth in love is how we grow up in the faith, it is how the body of Christ is edified. And it is not just the job of pastors or elders or evangelists. It is a responsibility for us all. We have a duty to know the truth and to be speaking it to one another, teaching it to our children, encouraging each other with God’s Word. This is why Paul tells the Saints in Colossi to “let the word of Christ dwell in [them] richly”.
So then let us remember that false speaking, whether lying or flattery, is hateful and destructive. It is no small thing to speak falsely. Let us also remember that we cannot be neutral in this matter. We must be speakers of the truth. And in that vein let us set aside any notion of individualism within the body of Christ. We owe it to one another to be diligent in the study of God’s Word and faithful in our Christian walk so that we may be well prepared to communicate truth and therefore edify each other.