Read Proverbs 26:23-28
There are some people who just don’t get it, some who are lazy, and some who have to meddle in other’s business or at least talk about it. None of these people are putting a smile on God’s face, but then we come to this area of malice, it just gets ugly.
Think evil, wickedness, ungodly intentions, and outright rebellion.
Some folks are just up to no good.
We must remember that these proverbs don’t do any good in the hands of those who are not seeking God’s wisdom.
They won’t bring wisdom to a fool.
They don’t deliver a work ethic to the lazy.
They will not even zip the lips of a gossip.
These proverbs are written to us—to those seeking God’s wisdom, so once again we ask, how do we who are wise deal with those harboring evil intentions?
The first 4 pairings warn us that wickedness and malice sometimes are wrapped in deceptive veneers.
Imagine digging an old clay pot out of your storeroom. You haven’t used it in years. At best you might find a space in your flower garden for it, plant some Morning Glories in it, and give you garden that rustic look.
But suddenly a brilliant idea hits you. Why not slap on a cheap coat of paint to cover up the cracks and give it a nice shine, at least long enough for you to sell it for $5 at the yard sale. Maybe you could just get some left over paint out of you neighbor’s shed and put an old, antique look on it. Maybe you could get $20 at the pawn shop.
Hold your horses! This sounds like it’s just wrong. I wouldn’t do that to anyone.
Again, these are not things that you might do, but that might be done to manipulate you. Words, kind words, overly kind words spoken with apparent passion, sometimes come with ulterior motives.
Wise people will complement each other when complements are in order, but we don’t heap it on. People who want to get something out of you are the ones who lay it on thick.
People who want to hurt you, take advantage of you, or have some other malicious design for you may want to set you up with some false passion.
What do we do?
Stay humble and vigilant.
A compliment is in order. Passionate flattery usually is an indicator of wrongful or harmful motives.
So should I be overly cautious?
No. Just be alert, well grounded, and end such conversations with, “Thank you for the complement.” Don’t permit any further discussion.
And just as we disengage from a fool, we don’t want to have anything to do with the person looking to do us harm.
What is victory for a malicious person?
First and foremost is to drag you down to their level. Don’t do it.
The world is full of people like this. The medical term is passive-aggressive. They are very kind to your face but always looking to stab you in the back.
There is an interesting book by Dr. Jerry Harvey titled, How Come Every Time I Get Stabbed in the Back My Fingerprints Are on the Knife? : And Other Meditations on Management.
The title gives insight into the book and into dealing with less than forthright people. You have to be engaged in a relationship with these sort of people for them to manipulate you. When they stab you in the back, you almost always find your own fingerprints on the knife. You have to be a willing—though sometimes gullible—partner to this crime in which you are also the victim.
These proverbs don’t say, “Be on the lookout for drive by shootings.” They say, “Be on the lookout for those who have baited a trap with flattering words. Their intentions are evil.”
Steer clear, disengage, and don’t get involved. Those hardly sound like words of wisdom for a Christian that has been sent into the world, but they are.
Christians are commissioned to take the good news into a broken world. Sometimes we will be persecuted. Sometimes we may be killed. Sometimes people just won’t like us.
We are sent into the world to deliver good news, not to take our eyes off of Jesus and fall for a baited trap.
We don’t go gullibly into the world. We go as Jesus sent his disciples on one of their first exercises in proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
I have twice taken the Chester Karrass negotiating class. Why? It is good training. I took it once for myself and then trained my entire team as a program manager in the Marine Corps.
In this class, Karrass explains 15 to 20 negotiation techniques and there is some application in the class where you practice most of them. Many of these are quite manipulative.
At the end of all of these techniques, Karrass discusses the win-win negotiation and declares that he will do nothing else.
He says, be on your guard that you don’t get manipulated by any of these techniques, but don’t practice them.
Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
Know all the tricks, but don’t use them on anyone else.
Solomon gives us a little encouragement near the end of the chapter. These last two pairing say:
Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;
if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.
He is reminding us that these traps will backfire every now and then and the predator becomes victim to his own trap.
He also reminds us not to feel badly about abruptly ending someone’s excess flattery of us. It won’t hurt their feelings because their feelings are feelings of hate and contempt for us. The flattery is false. Hate and wickedness lies behind whatever lies these people are telling us.
A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.
So what can we do?
Be on the lookout for words that sound too sweet, too flattering, and too good to be true. It is a trap.
Stay grounded. Stay humble. Stay focused on following Jesus. Excess flattery is one of those things that hinders and entangles that we are told to cast off as we run our race of faith.
So how can I wrap up this last part of Solomon’s wisdom into something you can take home?
How about sending you home with a fish?
From time to time I amuse myself with an acronym that might help to remember how to apply these quips of wisdom: A FISH
Alert – Be on the lookout for traps of flattery.
Focused – Keep our eyes on Jesus the Author and Finsiher of our faith.
Innoncent as doves.
Shrewd as snakes.
Humble – Always casting off things that slow us down like selfish pride and vanity. When we are humble were are seldom vulnerable.