A stand-up comedian has provided a couple of one-liners that, when combined, can provide us with a spiritual parallel. He said, “I looked high and low for you, but I didn’t look low enough.” He also joked, “I have a considerate doctor. If you can’t afford the operation, he touches up the x-rays.”

If we put those two together and make it refer to the same person, what do we have? A description of someone who is so low that he wouldn’t hesitate to alter the truth to make you feel better. He will use exaggerated praise to win the affection and goodwill of people by telling them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.

The apostle Paul recognized the sin of insincere praise and was careful to avoid it. He wouldn’t stoop so low as to “doctor up” the facts just to gain the support of his listeners. Paul’s aim was to please God, not man. Yet he didn’t hesitate to express his approval when he could do it honestly. For example, he let the Thessalonians know how much he valued and loved them (1 Th. 2:17-20). Paul was not against praise—just insincere praise.

Are we so committed to pleasing God that we would never give false praise to gain the approval of others? Flattery is no joke, even if it does get you a smile.