Suggested Reading: Proverbs 10:11
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
Jesus said that out of your mouths will flow rivers of living water. Whom did He refer to? He referred to the righteous. Not to those who are righteous out of their own doing (that is not possible anyway). He makes this promise to those who have placed their faith in Christ and have so received His righteousness: their words will bring life not only to themselves, but also to others, for their words will be morally strengthening, intellectually elevating, and inwardly rejuvenating to those who hear them. These rivers of living waters will not be self-serving. A flowing river benefits life around it and in it.
Paul taught the people of God in Ephesus that their words should build up those who listen and not tear them down (see Ephesians 4:29). It is sometimes necessary to speak stern words. We can see this in Jesus’ handling of certain situations with both His followers and His enemies, but the essential reason for speaking words of rebuke should be to build up and not to break down. We should speak the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15) and never out of a desire to get back at someone by hurting and humiliating them. When we correct someone we should always be mindful of the fact that we have weaknesses ourselves. Paul warned the Galatians that when they correct someone, it should be done with humility and gentleness and not from a platform of “At least I am not as bad as you…” (see Galatians 6:1) for we are all capable of giving in to temptation in its different forms.
In contrast to the righteous, the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. He conceals the violence which lives in his heart with deceitful words. His intention is not to benefit his listener with his words, but to ruin him. Jesus said that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. This means that which comes out of the mouth is a direct reflection of what lives in a person’s heart. Good words come from a good heart and bad words from a bad heart. Grapes don’t grow on apple trees. Referring to the mouth of the righteous, Matthew Henry writes
“His mouth, the outlet of his mind, is a well of life”.
A wicked person, however, goes to great lengths to hide the violence that lives in his heart. Consider how Judas betrayed the Son of Man with a kiss. Those with insincere intentions may try to overcompensate for their bad thoughts towards the listener by showering him with flattering words. I suppose this helps to ease their guilty conscience. A wise person, however, is not so easily fooled. He will recognise flattery as mere deceit. He will not be drawn into the net of the wicked. Jesus also said that the things whispered in the dark corners will be shouted from the rooftops. However well the bad person may hide his true intentions, it is only a matter of time before the mask falls off and the true character is revealed.
My prayer is that we will not fall prey to the deceitful flattery of people with bad intentions, but that we will be alert and watchful so that we may recognize flattery for what it really is: a deep-seated intention to do harm to the listener.
The next time when someone’s overbearing flattery makes you feel uncomfortable, remember there may be a reason why you feel this way. It must also be said that not all compliments are said with hidden bad intentions. There are those who truly mean what they say. For that reason, it is imperative that we don’t make ourselves guilty of flattering someone. We should aspire to become a person who means what he says and says what he means. We can pray that the Lord will teach us how to be sincere without causing harm to someone.
This warning is not intended to make us paranoid of others. We have the Holy Spirit who will guide us into all truth for He is the Spirit of truth. He will teach us to discern between a true compliment and deceitful flattery. If we follow Him we have no need to become paranoid and start distrusting everyone who compliments us.