Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 15, 1956
NUMBER 44, PAGE 8-9b

Obtaining The Kingdom With Flattery

E. L. Flannery, Sciotoville, Ohio

Daniel foretold how a vile person would overthrow the kingdom by his "coming in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom with flatteries." (Daniel 11:21.) Flattery is a potent weapon, winning victories where force might fail. It has overthrown more "kingdoms" than one. It has overthrown elders' better judgment, preachers' courage to preach the word, and anesthetized the conscience of Christian men and women. In every apostasy flattery has been a great power in drawing away disciples.

Flattery is a form of lying. It is sinful. It is condemned. (Exodus 20:16; Rom. 13:9.) Flattery is defined: "To smooth, caress, flatter; to shower praise or attention upon to gratify the recipient's vanity or to ingratiate oneself; to beguile; to use insincere or excessive praise." (Webster.) The purpose of flattery, then, is clearly to gain an end by ingratiating oneself to another.

Some Bible Warnings

Elihu, in his argument with Job, did not stoop to flattery, for he said, "Let me not, I pray you, accept any man's person, neither let me give flattering titles unto men .... For in so doing my maker would soon take me away." (Job 32:21-22.) Solomon warned his son against the flattering woman (Prov. 2:16) and against the flattering man. (Prov. 20:19.) He knew that "flattery's the food for fools." As the flatterer seeks self-promotion he is not to be believed in what he says.

Paul, the selfless servant of the Lord, points out the example he left us: "My exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: ... For neither at anytime used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is our witness." (1 Thess. 2:3-5.)

Present Dangers Of Flattery

We all must be on guard against flattery every day, making sure that we do not use it in our dealings with others, and that we do not permit ourselves to be taken in by it. Worldly-minded Christians (?) will try to flatter the preacher so he will compromise the truth and overlook rebuking them for their sinfulness. If he is weak and unmindful of Paul's example, he will use flattering words to gain his objectives — hold his job, increase his salary, or gain some other end. He will readily find the "itching ears" and scratch them with smooth preaching and flattery. And flattery is as good a scratcher as soft preaching — some preachers take one in each hand! This type preacher will never, NEVER, NEVER be negative, condemn sin specifically, rebuke error. He will say, blandly, "Why, I know of no sin in the church. Where is it?" And the sinners of the congregation will say, "What a Christ-like man! So devout and free from fault-finding." When the elders, fearful of their God-given duty to feed the flock, decide it is time to dismiss this evangelist and get one who will truly "preach the word," reprove and rebuke sinners, they will find the flattering preacher has established himself with the untaught and the ungodly, and that they will have to submit to his dictates, resign, or watch the church split. Yes, he came into the congregation peaceably, and "obtained it with flatteries"!

Elders Under Great Responsibility

Elders have a great responsibility. Apostasy can hardly occur under an eldership that is truly what God would have it be. Godly, consecrated elders spend much time in study of God's word, in prayer, in planning and in overseeing the work of the church. They are due support, respect, and praise for their "work's sake." But elders should be on guard for the flatterer, and measure everything by God's word, not by some man's pleasing personality or culture, nor by his smooth, caressing words.

Elders A Special Target For Flattery

There are many reasons that elders are especially a target for flattery. As overseers of the church they invite evangelists for local and meeting work, appoint teachers for classroom work, decide on courses of study, spend the church's money. A designing member within the congregation having some "axe to grind" will not fail to resort to flattery. Some designing person outside the congregation, having something he wishes to promote, will likewise resort to flattery, if need be, to gain his end. Elders will not be swayed by flattery,' who are grounded in the truth and desire to serve the flock as good shepherds. But, if the church has unknowingly appointed a man to the eldership who is vain, untaught in the word, one who wants to "be with the crowd," then the church is in real jeopardy! Flattery can easily sway such a man, for he judges by his pride and feelings, rather than by the Bible.

Elders In Big Business

The elders of the churches of Christ in the United States have over $100,000,000 (one hundred million dollars) every year at their disposal that they spend in overseeing the churches. Did you know that this is bigger business than the Chrysler Motor Corporation? or several other well-known corporations? (Chrysler netted less than $71 million the first three-quarters last year, or about $94 million for the year, and about $4 million the previous year. From Birmingham, News, AP, Nov. 8, 1955.) With one and one-half million members of the church giving but $66 per capita we would beat Chrysler with a total of $100 million. We are reported slightly behind the Adventist's $135 per year, so I believe this a very conservative estimate. At any rate, now that the church has grown in numbers and wealth you can see why there is a widespread campaign underway to flatter the elders. It is to get a hand into that rich treasury. "Flatterers haunt not cottages."

The promoters of human institutions, centralization of funds, brotherhood projects, etc., are now in full swing. With flattery (and the use of fear) they are seeking to line up as many preachers, elders, churches, schools, papers as they can. Little attempt is made to prove by the Bible their efforts ought to be supported out of he church treasuries. If local evangelists, or others, question their right to church support, then, knowing the elders "hold the purse strings," they use flattery, saying, "You have a higher position than that preacher! Why don't you put him in his place? Why don't you exercise your rights? You know that elders have the right to make the decisions where and when they will use the money of the church by the law of expediency!" Now, don't think this is not effective with certain types! By such tactics in person and by the press, designing men have "obtained the kingdom with flatteries"; have gotten their human project in the church budget by misleading elders to believe that they have legislative powers — arbitrary authority.

If I Were A Flatterer

If I were a flatterer I would first acquaint myself with a man's weaknesses, his ego and vanity. Then, I would appeal to this on every plane and every occasion. I would not permit myself to be drawn into a discussion that was completely open and fair. If some brother asked me for proof, I'd put my hand on his shoulder and assure him that the biggest, richest churches among us see things as I do. I would ask him if he wishes to be counted as a "hobbyist" or an "anti"? I would tell him I knew he was too cultured, too wise, too interested in progress and activity to be so labeled. If I felt I needed Supplementary help in my campaign of flattery I'd send him literature that used unlimited space to "praising" (that sounds better than flattering!) men that agreed with my positions, "praising" wide-awake churches (that is, churches already neck deep in what I hope to further promote). In this way, in many instances, I would come in peaceably and "obtain the kingdom," my objective. And few would return to their former beliefs, for "flattery sits in the parlor when plain dealing is kicked out of doors."

What Is The Antidote?

The only antidote for flattery, or any other form of lying, is to present the truth. (Some brethren wouldn't take an ANTIdote if they accidentally swallowed a bottle of iodine; they have such fear of the term "anti"!) Truth opposes error. Truth alone will free one from error. With all who are sincere the only question in their minds is, "What is truth?" It matters not who thinks this, or practices that. Does the New Testament teach it by command, example, or necessary inference? This is the antidote for error. If any one will not accept this, but prefers to follow a course of vanity and pride, feeding his ego on a diet of flattery, he is beyond the reach of truth. Let us not make the mistake of trying to out-flatter the flatterers among us!