Proverbs 28:23

Rebuke is Better than Flattery

He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour
than he that flattereth with the tongue.

Introduction: This is a simple proverb that states the value of rebuke. It may be more difficult to give and to receive up front, but in the end, it is far better than its opposite: flattery.

He that rebuketh a man

A. How to Rebuke (There is a right way and a wrong way.)

1. Do not have a beam in your own eye. (Matt. 7:3-5)

2. Do so for a matter that is worthy of rebuke (Matt.23:24)—not just a personal dislike.

3. Do so with grace. (Col. 4:5-6)

4. Do so in love – (Rev. 3:19 – the Lord rebukes in love.)

a. Rebuke should be done for the spiritual best interest of the one rebuked.

b. Rebuke a brother when necessary, “Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

5. Do so in accordance with truth – (II Tim. 3:16 – the Scriptures are for reproof – not opinions; John 12:48)

6. Do so in a timely fashion (Prov.15:23) in due season…

7. Do so privately (Matt. 18:15) – not in a crowd; not on Facebook; etc.

8. Do so as led of the Lord.

9. Do so with proper motives.

B. Reproofs and Rebukes Are Often Rejected Initially

1. The person who is rebuked has no favor towards his rebuke initially.

a. In fact, he may become angry and even hostile towards the one who rebukes.

b. Gal. 4:16 – “Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”

c. When you rebuke a friend, there is always that chance that he will no longer be your friend. He may become so insulted, so hurt, and so angry that he doesn’t want to talk to you any more.

d. That is the risk that one giving a rebuke must be willing to take.

e. You are sticking your neck out when you rebuke a brother. He may welcome it—or he may chop your head off.

2. That makes rebuking very difficult.

a. Sometimes a needed rebuke is avoided because we fear upsetting the apple cart. We fear a hostile response.

b. We fear alienating the one who needs to be rebuked.

c. It is not easy rebuking a brother or friend who needs to be rebuked. Nobody likes doing so (almost nobody).

3. Heb. 12:5 – “Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord.”

a. God had to send out a similar warning to His sons as He rebukes and corrects as a Father.

b. Ultimately, rebukes are from the Lord, whether it comes from the indwelling Spirit who convicts our heart or from the Word of God as we read, or whether God uses a brother to deliver it.

He that flattereth with the tongue

1. Prov. 29:5 – A man that flatters spreads a net for his neighbor.

a. Here the picture is of an unseen danger.

b. A net is designed to capture an unwitting animal.

c. The net is hidden and unseen—but a very present danger nonetheless.

d. Flattery is not immediately seen for the danger that it poses… but it does pose a real danger.

2. Prov. 26:28 – A flattering mouth worketh ruin.

a. This is the danger of flattery: It can ruin the one being flattered.

b. The real danger of flattery is that the one being flattered might actually BELIEVE it!

c. It is often perceived as a green light to continue ahead on the same course.

d. The one who is headed in the wrong direction and is flattered when he should be rebuked, will be strengthened in his pursuit of evil or error or folly.

e. That is the road to ruin. That is the point of this proverb.

3. Psalm 12:2 – Flattery is often associated with deceitfulness – a double heart… from a two-faced so-called friend.

a. One cynic wrote: “The chances are about 10 to 1 that when a man slaps you on the back, he wants you to cough up something.”

b. There is often an ulterior motive behind flattery. The flatterer wants some sort of favor in return.

c. Thus, the flatterer tells you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear.

d. The flatterer is often out for his own best interest—not yours!

4. Prov. 20:19 – “Meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.”

a. Stay away from the flatterer. You can thereby avoid the snare… avoid being deceived… avoid ruin… avoid being taken advantage of by deceivers.

b. Ben Franklin said, “The same man cannot be both friend and flatterer.”

Afterwards shall find more favor

A. Afterwards

1. Afterwards: Upon reflection; upon maturity; after dealing with the consequences of not being rebuked for folly; the one who is rebuked will reconsider the anger that he once held towards his rebuke.

2. He may also shift that anger on to the one who flattered him.

3. Rebuke is sort of like getting a flu shot. It stings initially, but in the long run, it prevents you from getting something worse.

4. Sometimes when a man is flattered for sin, when he should have been rebuked, the flattery actually encouraged him to continue on in that sin.

a. If he continues in sin, he will also be paying the consequences of that sin.

b. If he ever gets right with God, he will repent of his sin and will now be upset over the so called friend who flattered him in his sin.

c. And those who rebuked him (even if he rejected their counsel and became angry at the time), afterward, he will be favorably affected towards them.

B. Favor

1. Prov. 27:5 – Open rebuke is better than secret love.

a. Afterwards, upon more reflection, the one who is rebuked realizes that the rebuke WAS necessary, and in fact, it was exceeding helpful.

b. The patient who yells in pain at his doctor as his arm is being reset will thank him later… and show him great favor when he regains full use of his arm again. This might become his favorite doctor.

2. He may even begin to see it as a blessing to be rebuked! (Ps. 141:5)

3. Prov. 9:8 – Rebuke a wise man and he will love thee.

4. Prov. 27:6 – “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

5. Ecc. 7:5 – “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.”

6. Prov. 13:18 – “Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.”

a. It delivers from folly and shame and eventually leads to honor.

b. Upon reflection, the one rebuked realizes what is really valuable.

7. Prov. 15:32 – “He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.” It leads to understanding and wisdom and maturity… and that is appreciated.

8. The one who eventually responds properly to rebuke (even if his initial reaction is not so good) will afterwards learn to appreciate what his friend risked in giving the rebuke.

9. Charles Bridges quoted another: “Few people have the wisdom to like reproofs that would do them good, better than praises that do them hurt.”

a. His friend stuck his neck out in love… realizing and taking the risk of having his head chopped off… but he rebukes his friend anyway, out of love and for his friend’s best interest, not his own.

b. The wise man will recognize that the flatterer took the easy route and was not really operating in love. The wise man will see the vanity in flattery and the value of a needed rebuke.