This is an important question because we are instructed to encourage one another.  We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.” (NASB).  We are also instructed that we should not flatter one another.  We read in Proverbs 26:28, “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.”

What exactly is flattery?  By definition, flattery is “excessive and insincere praise, given especially to further one’s own interests.”  By this, we see that flattery is a selfish action.  It is largely insincere and largely untrue.  Does flattery encourage?  No, it doesn’t.  Flattery will only cause us to take our eyes off the Lord and begin to focus on ourselves.  The natural man loves to be flattered.  We love to think that we excel above others in our actions.  As we just read, “a flattering mouth worketh ruin.”  Normally, flattery is used comparatively by telling people they are better than others, or are more attractive than others, or are more intelligent than others. 

What exactly is encouragement?  By definition, encouragement is “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.”  Where flattery is false, encouragement is based on truth.  The importance of encouragement is found in verses such as Hebrews 3:13, “But encourage one another every day, as long as it is still called “today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”  True biblical encouragement will help others not to have hardened hearts towards sin.  When we consider each other’s needs above our own, our desire will be to help others.  When we have hearts to help, there will be no jealousy. 

  • Flattery builds up the flesh in us and causes us to be puffed up.
  • Encouragement builds up the spiritual man in us and causes us to be stronger in the Lord.

We see, then, that encouragement will edify, or strengthen, the believer while flattery will only produce conceit and self-gratification.  In order to encourage without flattering, our intent must be to build up our fellow believers.  We begin with honesty, letting others know how you benefitted from their work for the Lord.  We continue with concern for others, having a desire to help make them stronger in the Lord.  Above all, our words of encouragement to fellow believers must bring glory to the Lord. 

We read of a particular man in Acts 4:36 which says, “Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means SON OF ENCOURAGEMENT)…” (NASB). What a dear brother this man must have been!  He encouraged others so much that they gave him the name of Barnabas…the son of encouragement.  May we all strive to be like this man and encourage others as the Lord gives us opportunity.  (CC)  (490.6)