“And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.'” (Matthew 22:16)
Who doesn’t like to hear compliments like those which the Pharisees’ disciples gave to Jesus? Many of us would love to hear such glowing words spoken about us! But the truth is, we need to be very wary when we do, for the speakers may have a hidden motive behind their words.
The context here is that the Pharisees had just met to scheme how they might entrap Jesus in what He said (:15). This verse immediately follows. These schemers sent their surrogates (see yesterday’s devotion here on this strategy) to try to ensnare Jesus with some questions, and :16 is how they began it: by flattering Him.
Someone has said that flattery is saying to someone’s face, what you would not say behind their back — which fits this situation perfectly. These men hated Jesus. They wanted to find an accusation against Him that they could take to the Roman authorities. They secretly hoped that He would say that the tax should not be paid, so that they could accuse Him of rebellion — or even if He DID say the tax should be paid, then the fickle tide of public opinion might turn against Him for submitting to the hated Romans. Either way, they thought they had Him trapped. It was an excellent scheme. And significantly, they “baited” the trap with flattery: saying things about Jess to His face that they would never say behind His back, about how “truthful” and full of integrity He was. But it was very much a trap.
There is a good lesson for us here. Proverbs 29:5 says “The man who flatters his neighbor is laying a net for his steps.” In other words, when someone lavishes effusive compliments upon you, they may likely be trying to “trap” you in some way. Perhaps, as in Jesus’ case here, they are seeking your ultimate destruction. Or maybe it is something less serious, but they are still trying to manipulate you into doing something that you do not really want to do. Whatever the case, the Proverb, and the experience of Jesus here teach us an important life lesson: beware the flatterers!