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Why is Flattery So Dangerous? How Should We Respond to It?
- Mark 12:13-14, ESV
In Pilgrim's Progress, the Shepherds on the Delectable Mountains give Christian and Hopeful two pieces of advice, "Beware the flatterer!" and "Do not sleep on the Enchanted Ground!" Sadly, these two pilgrims forget this advice when confronted by the flatterer and they end up ensnared in a trap.
In today's passage, some Pharisees and Herodians are trying to snare Jesus in a trap and they bait their trap with flattery. If these men really believed that Jesus truly taught the way of God, they would sit at His feet to listen and learn and not come to set a trap for Him. Jesus was too wise for them, of course, and we'll take a look at His response in a minute.
Flattery is something we all need to beware. We are so quick to listen to flattery because of our pride and insecurity. We want people to like us and we're not sure if they do or not, so flattery has a real attraction and snare for us. Jesus was humble and secure, so flattery was not a baited trap for Him. People who flatter are usually trying to get something from us or trap us. We walk into their clutches because we want to keep their good opinion.
Jesus responded to this flattery as we all should: He avoided the trap by speaking the truth clearly and carefully. The Pharisees knew that if Jesus advocated paying taxes to Rome, it would get Him in trouble with the people, who resented Roman taxes. The Herodians knew that is Jesus told the people not to pay their taxes, this would get Him in trouble with the Romans. It seemed clear that Jesus would be in trouble whichever answer He gave.
Jesus stepped back from the immediate question to clarify the context. The Romans coined and issued their own currency. They asked for payment back from what they had distributed. Jesus knew that issues of politics and taxation were not of direct importance to the kingdom of God. This is why He said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
Ultimately, of course, all things belong to God. God is the Lord and Ruler of all things. This means that He establishes rulers and overthrows those same rulers. But Jesus would not be trapped in a distraction, nor did He want His kingdom identified with Rome or with the anti-Roman forces. His reign is so much bigger than our petty political squabbles. True wisdom comes for us when we follow after Him and learn to think and see the world as He does.
Prayer Based on Psalm 89:
I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness to all generations.
For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
in the heavens You will establish Your faithfulness.”
You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
‘I will establish your offspring forever,
and build your throne for all generations.’”
You have kept and fulfilled all of Your covenant promises in Christ,
the Great Son of David who lives and ruled forever!
Let the heavens praise Your wonders, O Lord,
Your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
For who in the skies can be compared You, O Lord?
Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord,
a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
and awesome above all who are around You?
O Lord God of hosts,
who is mighty as You are, O Lord,
with Your faithfulness all around You?
You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, You still them.
The heavens are Yours; the earth also is Yours;
the world and all that is in it, You have founded them.
The north and the south, You have created them;
Tabor and Hermon joyously praise Your name.
You have a mighty arm;
strong is your hand, high Your right hand,
Jesus our Savior and Lord, Your right hand forever!
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
Blessed are the people who who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,
who exult in the name of Jesus all the day
and in Your righteousness are exalted.
For You are the glory of their strength;
by Your favor our horn is exalted.
For our shield belongs to the Lord,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.
But Your people are in trouble, O Lord,
Persecuted and harassed by enemies and suffering shame and disgrace.
How long, O Lord? Will You hide yourself forever?
How long will Your wrath burn like fire?
Remember how short our time is!
For what brief lives on earth You have created all the children of man!
What man can live and never see death?
Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?
Only in Jesus is power over the grave!
Lord, where is your steadfast love of old,
which by your faithfulness you swore to David?
Your have fulfilled the vows You made to David in Your Son.
Now, remember, O Lord, how Your servants are mocked,
and how we bear the insults of all the many nations,
with which your enemies mock, O Lord,
with which they mock the footsteps of your anointed.
Redeem and rescue, to the praise of Your name!
Blessed be the Lord forever!
Amen and Amen.