24:1 After five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders, with an attorney named Tertullus, and they brought charges to the governor against Paul. 2 After Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying to the governor,
“Since we have through you attained much peace, and since by your providence reforms are being carried out for this nation, 3 we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness. 4 But, that I may not weary you any further, I beg you to grant us, by your kindness, a brief hearing."
Nothing to see here right? There are probably many things but two jumped out this morning. First it was only a one day journey from Jerusalem to Caesarea yet Paul's accusers never showed up until 5 days later. Why is that?
Secondly the lawyers opening remarks were as thick with flattery as they could be not to mention contradictory. If they didn't want to "weary" him why did they wait 5 days before even showing up?
In case you were unaware the Bible has nothing good to say about flattery. I am sharing just a few examples here.
A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.
The following statement refers to the enemies of God's followers:
There is nothing reliable in what they say; Their inward part is destruction itself. Their throat is an open grave; They flatter with their tongue.
This verse refers to those who claim to be God's children but are not...
They speak falsehood to one another; With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.
All throughout Jesus' ministry there were secret meetings in Jerusalem of the leaders trying to plan some way of getting rid of Jesus without getting their hands or reputations too dirty. In Acts the same theme continues only now the guns are turned on the disciples and apostle. The meetings are always in secret because they know they are in the wrong. They know exactly what they are doing.
Finally Paul is almost in their clutches. At this point he has become enemy number one of the Church. His version of the gospel is too good. It opens the doors to the undesirables. It breaks the power of the leadership to control the people through rules Jesus never made. It's a gospel of equality for all, of love for all, and of freedom from the oppression and condemnation of the law.
For 4 days they met in Jerusalem recruiting just the right lawyer to speak on their behalf and putting together a case they felt would push Felix to either kill Paul or let them have him. And what is their opening strategy when they show up 5 days late?
They hate the Romans. They hate that they have to go to them and through them to run their own nation. They detest being a nation under another nation. They detest that that nation is a pagan idolatrous nation.
And yet they come at Felix with words dripping in compliments.
Flattery is designed to manipulate and truth needs no manipulation.
The lesson? If you find yourself carefully preparing what you are going to say there is a good chance there is a problem. If you lead in with words of flattery there is most definitely a problem.
Many years ago the first radio preacher, HMS Richards, the founder of 'The Voice of Prophecy', was asked what he thought about women wearing makeup. His response was classic. He said "If the barn door needs painting, paint it."
Some are blessed with perfect skin and some are not. Makeup is to mask those blemishes and create the appearance of perfect skin.
Truth needs no paint. It has no blemishes. Beware those who flatter you in order to make their blemished words more palatable and beware of yourself. We don't want to be the one putting a net of honey coated words at the feet of our neighbours in order to trap them.
Love doesn't manipulate and love wins so stay on the winning side. :)