Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.
2 They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
3 The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:
4 Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?
5 For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.
6 The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
7 Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
8 The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.
I enjoy being told good things about myself—whether an affirmation about a class I just taught, an event I’ve helped out with, or some new clothes I’m wearing. However, this psalm reminds me that flattery is seductive, and can be untrue and corrupting. I do think that we should affirm each other—the world is too full of those who discourage. But sometimes our mutual affirmations keep us from doing the good in the world that God has called us to do.
Psalm 12 contrasts flattery with working to help the poor and needy. Sometimes I am convicted of my need to go further for God and have an overwhelming sense of guilt at my own materialistic concerns or selfishness. While there is such a thing as overpowering and false guilt, could it be that we sometimes affirm each other for the superficial and feel content? Could flattery prevent us from being outraged at the exploitation of the poor around us?
Maybe God is pushing us to go beyond our own self-satisfaction to work for justice, sacrificing some of our time and even our own comforts to do so.
Lisa Clark Diller
Chair, Dept. of History and Political Studies
Southern Adventist University