Proverbs 20:19

He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.

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Two-faced persons are dangerous. They speak out of both sides of their mouth as it suits them. The lesson is to avoid them for the problems they will cause in your life. Here is great advice from the wise man – a flattering person will also be guilty of talebearing.

What is a talebearer? It is a person that carries around private information about people that he shares with others to damage reputations. Talebearing is the forgotten sin of tattling. The Bible also calls it backbiting and whispering. It is commonly called gossip.

What are the secrets? They are private information about a person that should remain secret and not known by others. They are facts that should not be made public, for they will only harm a reputation. Everyone has secrets or skeletons they wish to keep private.

What does it mean to meddle? It means to mingle or mix with persons or things. In this case, it means to associate with known flatterers. Solomon’s warning is to avoid social interaction or friendship with people that like to flatter, for they are a danger to you.

What is flattery? It is excessive compliments or praise to win a person’s confidence, approval, or favors. Its design is to gratify a person’s vanity and make them feel honored or distinguished. It is insincere to varying degrees, for there are usually ulterior motives.

The proverb warns you to avoid flatterers, because they will often also be talebearers. If you allow the flatterer to highly praise you and get you to relax about things in your life, he will take that information and share it with others, damaging your cause and name.

Your success depends on two things from this proverb. First, you must avoid flatterers, because they are also talebearers and can do you harm. Second, you must avoid flattery and talebearing yourself, because both are sins in the sight of God and good men.

Flattery is pleasant to give or receive, but it is basically lying. It corrupts relationships. God warns against giving or accepting it (Ps 5:9; 12:2-3; 78:36; Pr 2:16; 6:24; 7:5,21; 20:19; 29:5; I Thess 2:5). If you are in sales, or a sanguine, or expressive, be warned.

You should not give it. Job said, “He that speaketh flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children shall fail” (Job 17:5). Elihu, Job’s wisest friend, would not give flattering titles to men (Job 32:21-22). Jesus condemned it, especially in religion (Matt 23:5-12).

You should not receive it. Solomon said, “A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet” (Pr 29:5). And again, “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin” (Pr 26:28). Though pleasant, it is very dangerous.

Should you trust others’ tongues? Can you tame your tongue? Though every kind of beast has been tamed, no man can truly tame the tongue – it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Who was so disrespectful of your tongue? The inspired apostle James (Jas 3:7-8)!

The tongue is one of the smallest bodily parts, but it is one of the most dangerous, just like a small match can burn down a forest. The same apostle wrote, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (Jas 3:6).

Solomon’s Proverbs show that he had much to say about speech. He warns you to judge men by their speech (Pr 7:4-5; 14:7; 19:27; 23:6-8; 27:15), and he warns you to guard your own speech (Pr 10:21; 15:1; 17:27; 25:15). Have you learned the crucial lessons?

You can find honest and sober speech in the churches of Jesus Christ. The pastors there will tell you the truth about yourself, for they speak as the ambassadors of God. The members there will do the same, for they have your earthly and eternal interests at heart.