Too Much Sugar for a Dime

March 10, 2002

TOO MUCH SUGAR FOR A DIME by Ray Pritchard “He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue” (Proverbs 28:23). The key to understanding this verse lies in the phrase “in the end.” Some things that seem good at first leave a bitter taste later, and some things that are hard to take prove to be good for you, like the proverbial castor oil that our parents threatened to make us take if we didn’t straighten up. As I think about it, I don’t believe I ever had castor oil and I’m not really sure what it is or what it does, but I do remember that it was supposed to taste bad, which of course meant that it was good for you. In the olden days most medicines were that way–bad taste, try not to gag, but if you can get it down, it will do you some good. Flattery comes from the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s light and fluffy and fun and makes you feel good, sort of like cotton candy. And like cotton candy, there’s really not much to it. The dictionary defines flattery as “excessive or insincere praise.” The thesaurus lists a number of synonyms, including “soft soap,” “snow job,” “blarney,” “bootlicking,” and a word you don’t see very often, “obsequiousness.” Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once remarked that “baloney is flattery laid on so thick it cannot be true, and blarney is flattery so thin we love it.” While it may be true, as Jane Russell remarked, that “flattery will get you anywhere,” it is also true that “between flattery and admiration there often flows a river of contempt” (Minna Antrim). When someone lays it on too thick, something in us wants to ask, “What do you want?” During a recent trip to Word of Life Florida, I met Randy Ray, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida. Over lunch one day he was talking about the man who coaches their high school football team. Whenever the coach (whose teams have won five state championships in the last six years) suspects he’s being flattered and not complimented, he’ll say, “That’s too much sugar for a dime.” The other side of this verse reminds us that an honest rebuke will do us more good in the long run. It usually takes a lot of courage to say to a friend, “I think you’re making a bad mistake” or “Your life is messed up.” In the course of a normal day, we’d all rather be praised than rebuked. But honest friends prove their love by speaking the truth we don’t want to hear. Their words are like castor oil to the soul–hard to take but good for what ails us. Flattery is fun for a moment but only the truth will set us free.

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