“The Preacher sought to acquire words of delight and so he wrote honestly words of truth.”
“I shall not be biased toward a man nor to a man will I give flattery because I do not know how to flatter else in a moment I would be taken away by my maker.” — Elihu
Flattery may excite for a moment and lying words may inflate the ego, but truth delights not only God, our Maker, but the ears of a wise man. The bottom line is that if we are going to seek out words that delight, they are only found in one place — the Truth. True, at times, these may not be the words we most want to hear, but they are indeed the words that will be of the most value to us as we grow and they will be the words that produce maturity in our souls.
How often people collect around themselves those who will simply tell them what they most want to hear. In business, we call them “Yes-Men” or “Sycophants,” but they are nothing more than people who refuse to offer an opinion for fear of losing their place. Their loyalty may sound like it is to you, but it is really only ever to themselves. The man or woman who comes alongside of you and who speaks truth, even those truths that are difficult to hear, so long as it is in love, are those men and women who are truly loyal. These are the ones we all most need in our confidence and when things go well because of their insight, you will delight.
Today, though, people seem so insecure that they are almost afraid to receive criticism — constructive or otherwise. Are we so insecure as a culture that we would prefer to speak into a vacuum than to engage human beings with differing ideas? Have our teachers failed so miserably that we genuinely think that an attack against a person’s character is a legitimate form of debate? I fear that the answer to both of those questions is “yes.” Woe to us as a culture, for this is not the mindset that built the great nations of the western world. If we would be “Great Again” (to borrow from a popular slogan), we must recapture what it means to engage with ideas and to recognize that true words are and ought to be delightful, no matter from where they come.
One of my professors in seminary, Jack Williamson, repeated a phrase over and over again to us as we were in class. “Be hard on ideas,” he said, “But be soft on people.” What he meant by that, of course, was to speak truth in love — to attack an idea with great vigor, but do not attack the person bringing the idea. His heart was to see this take root in our churches; but what if we could nurture that idea in our communities, our nations, and our world as well? Then, and only then, will we really appreciate Solomon’s words here.