Today, we’re continuing our spiritual weight loss program. In our last lesson, we learned about ridding ourselves of “malice.” The second sin Peter refers to is deceit: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (2 Peter 2:1).
In elementary school, I loved going fishing with my father in Louisiana. First, we’d stop at the bait shop, and I was dazzled by all the bright, shiny lures. Dad would laugh and remind me, “Most lures are designed to catch fishermen.” Lures are, by their very nature, deceitful!
Some people would argue our entire economy is based on deceit. The ad men work hard to convince us to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like. I love my Alexa device. No more flipping switches to change the channel or turn on the lights. Who needs a “clapper”? But I also suspect Alexa is listening to our conversations. Ads begin mysteriously appearing on my phone and computer for items Jan and I mentioned privately the night before! Peter is warning us about being deceitful in our speech and actions. Men often exaggerate their accomplishments, and even ministers are guilty of using a “preacher count” when recording attendance.
How can we cultivate honesty in our speech? First, don’t talk so much! James told us to “let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation” (James 5:12). My grandmother used to say, “Johnny, God gave you two ears and one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you talk.” Those are wise words, but they are hard to follow.
Likewise, the New Testament warns against “smooth talk” and “flattery.”
“For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve” (Romans 16:18).
The word the ESV translates as “flattery” can also be translated in a good sense as “praise, blessing, or generous gift.” It becomes evil when it goes too far. The ancients used this word to describe “words that are well chosen but untrue, false eloquence, flattery.” It’s “an argument that sounds good but is false.”
In the garage, I have a rusty old tackle box; sometimes, I open it to remind myself to beware of speech with hooks.
Be a Blessing,
 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). In A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 500). University of Chicago Press.