Backhanded “Compliments” — How to Handle Them Biblically

Backhanded “Compliments” — How to Handle Them Biblically

What do you do?

When someone insults you, but disguises it as a compliment, how do you respond? Those kinds of comments are what are known as backhanded compliments, and it’s not usually intentional (but often it is). Some people are just socially awkward. They don’t mean to sound snarky; they simply don’t know how to deliver a compliment. Chances are, they don’t know how to receive one, either. Yet at other times, the spiteful comment is entirely intentional. That person may act innocent, but their rudeness still hurts. So from a Biblical perspective, what should you do?

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“You are really smart for such a pretty woman.”
“You got the job?! Congratulations! I’m so surprised!”
“You look beautiful today.”
“I wish I was as cool with clutter as you are.”

 

You could write your own list of these kinds of commendations, couldn’t you? We’ve all heard them; in fact, we’ve all said them.
And they sting.

So, again—how do you respond to backhanded compliments Biblically?

Here are five Biblical responses. Which will you use?

“Love is not easily offended (1 Corinthians 15:3).”

1. Assume the best.

Give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she meant no harm. Or maybe she did. Not responding in kind doesn’t mean you’re being weak. Thank her for the “compliment” and let it go.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:6).”

2. Be gracious.

If you answer with gracious speech—even if she meant it as an insult—you will model Jesus for her. She will see that love does not act unbecomingly or use harsh or hurtful words. Remember that Jesus told us to answer evil with good.

“in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love (2 Corinthians 6:6).”

3. Apply kindness.

You have not walked in her shoes today. You don’t know whether or not she is acting out of hurt that someone else did to her. Gentleness is appealing and also contagious. Your kindness may just turn her day around.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:15).”

4. Speak the truth in love.

Especially when you don’t think any harm was meant, say, “Thank you for the compliment, but saying that today I look beautiful implies you don’t think I usually am. Is that what you meant to say?” Keep your tone non-combative, and gently let her know that she may not realize that what she said was hurtful.

“Luke 6:28 says: Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who insult you.”

5. Pray.

Whether the back-handed compliment was an attempt to insult you or not, the person who talks that way needs prayer. Sometimes she is hurting herself, sometimes she’s clueless, and sometimes she just didn’t think before she spoke. Since you don’t really know why, it’s best not to rush to judgement. Praying for those who offend us is the right thing to do, and then pray for yourself if you received offense. Remember, love is not easily offended!

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Doesn’t God Want Me to be Happy?

Doesn’t God Want Me to be Happy?

Ravi Zacharias, this century’s indisputable leading Christian apologist, said in a video recently that the greatest lie mankind believes today is that unbridled pleasure is the means to the greatest happiness. As I listened to him, I realized that believing lies (particularly that lie) produces the world’s most rabidly anti-Christian beliefs.

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Why is that?

Let’s back up a minute and see why people so eagerly believe this particular lie.

Zacharias told the story of a journalist asking Tiger Woods during the time of his great discretion, “How could you lie to so many people for so long?” Putting aside the obvious irony here, Woods’ answer was eye opening. He said, “Because I lied to myself first.”

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If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any amount of time, you know that my go-to solution to most problems is allowing Christ to shine His light on them. Exposing anything to His light will accomplish one of three things. It cleanses, or heals, or dissolves. Anything from the enemy dissolves when exposed to His light, exactly like when you turn on a light in a dark room. Suddenly what seemed true in the dark is shown for what it truly is in the light.

We often tell ourselves lies. It’s not always the enemy’s thoughts we’re listening to so much as it is our aligning our own thoughts with his.

Eden (as in the garden of Eden) means pleasure, and God placed Adam and Eve there. Didn’t they have unbridled pleasure? Didn’t God want them to be happy?

Let’s look more closely at that idea.

In the beginning, Adam and Eve had perfect pleasure. They had perfect, immortal bodies, they had each other, they had a pristine universe, and they had God’s fellowship. But their pleasure had limits. They could enjoy the bounty of their perfect lives so long as they did not do one thing: eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So why weren’t they happy with what they had?

Enter the serpent.

That wily snake knew something Eve didn’t know. He knew that disobeying God in this single command would bring down the whole of humanity, even those not yet born. But that’s not what he told the woman. Oh, no! He said that eating the forbidden fruit would give her unbridled pleasure.  The serpent said that she would be just like God, implying that God was holding something back from her.

Debate abounds on whether or not Adam knew better and chose the approval of Eve over the approval of God. I tend to think that is so. He stood by and did nothing when she listened to the serpent, yet the Bible tells us in unequivocal terms that he was not deceived (1 Timothy 2:13).

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Genesis 3:6 tells us the story: So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

Since he wasn’t deceived, we can’t blame the devil for Adam’s sin. Notice that it was HIS sin that brought humanity to its knees. And that’s where we need to stay, figuratively speaking, on our knees before our Great God.

Eve, on the other hand, thought the snake was telling her the truth. It sounded like it could be true. It certainly looked like it could be true. And she was sure it would taste as wonderful as it looked. That’s what gets us, every time we align our thoughts with the devil’s suggestions. We look for the bits of truth in his lies and ignore the flaming red flags trying to get our attention.

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Eve’s sin was the exact same sin as Adam’s. She willfully chose to disobey God. Her being deceived by Satan does NOT in any way mitigate her sin before God. She knew that He had said they were not to eat of the fruit from that tree, but she aligned her thoughts with the devil’s because she liked his outcome better than God’s.  Her Maker had said that in the day that they ate of that fruit, they would surely die (Genesis 2:17). Trying to make Eve less culpable because she wasn’t there when God told Adam not to eat of it is not an excuse. Either God told her or Adam did, because she told the snake. She knew the rules.

Adam and Eve both sinned equally by disobeying God. Even if Eve didn’t know why she shouldn’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she did know God had said not to. That should have been enough.

But the devil came in with a “mixed truth” statement. He told her that when she ate of the fruit, that “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” That much is true. But he also said she would not die, and that was a blatant lie.

It’s good to remember that a partial truth is a total lie. Click To Tweet

Satan always holds out on the entire truth. He didn’t tell her that the good and evil she would know would condemn her, just as God had said it would.

So she aligned her thoughts with the serpent’s, and then she acted upon them. And things went downhill from there.

Eve was under the impression that embracing the serpent’s “version of the truth” would make her happy. It would give her complete fulfillment and ultimate pleasure. In this case, aligning her thoughts with the enemy’s was devastating, not only to her and her husband, but because all of their future children would bow down to Satan’s hand.

So, as to the question “Doesn’t God want me to be happy?”

The answer is a resounding yes! He wants you to be ridiculously happy and filled to overflowing in joy. But true, everlasting happiness doesn’t come through getting our own way. We need God’s way.

To wrap it up, let’s look at 2 more things.

First, Satan wants you to believe his lies so you will never be happy. He wants to destroy you body, soul, and mind.

Second, the Dictionary of Bible Themes defines happiness as “a state of pleasure or joy experienced both by people and by God.” He wants you to experience His happiness and joy and He has given you an eternity to enjoy it with Him.

Even if you have to drag them kicking and screaming into the light of God’s presence, submit your thoughts to the purifying Light and let it cleanse you, heal you, and make you happy. Only in His presence is there fulness of joy!

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

5 Biblical Reasons to Honor Our Small Group Members

5 Biblical Reasons to Honor Our Small Group Members

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I got a phone call from a dear friend this morning, and I’m sure that God was listening in and guiding our conversation, because we both came away with new lessons for each of our unique situations. She just had heart surgery; I lead a small group.

“Wait,” you say. “How are these the same?”

Well, obviously, they’re not. What was the same, though, was that God cares about both situations. She and I are sisters from the same Abba Father, and you know what? He doesn’t play favorites!

I’m actually not going to discuss what God had for her in this conversation; that’s hers to share or not. But I am going to show you how

she met my need in the moment, even as she dealt with the aftermath of her surgery.

Let me tell you the scenario and then show you how shining the Light of Christ on it taught me lessons God had for me today.

I lead two small groups in my church. One has a messianic focus and one is a creative group. The last meeting to end the creative group for the summer came, and I had anticipated a small party and sharing the results of what we had done over the last five weeks. I had emailed all the members and asked them to consider bringing some goodies to share and to be sure to bring their project with them so we could all see our progress.

But when everybody showed up, no one had brought anything to share and no one had done a single thing with what we had been learning about for better than a month. Swallowing my disappointment, I simply welcomed everyone and we began to share our week. (In both of my groups, I always start off by allowing everyone to tell us how things are going, what they are doing, and enjoying treats, drinks, and lots of laughter. But I’m the one who provides the snacks and beverages, every time.) I guess I had groomed them to expect me to do it all. And why wouldn’t they? I doubt that I ever even one time asked someone else to contribute (although one dear lady in my other group brought something twice, unasked). 

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You know, I tried to forbid the disappointment and it wouldn’t obey the “delete” button. So I sent it to my “examine later” cubby in my brain so I could continue my group without letting the emotion of the moment affect me.

During the course of the group time, one of the participants continually talked over everyone else. Her attitude made people feel as though what they were contributing was insignificant and she was the authority—on everything. At one point, she actually stood up and left the room because another member wanted to show a You Tube video she didn’t agree with.

The poor lady trying to show the video got up, suddenly “remembered” she needed to be at home right then, and walked out the door. Shortly thereafter, the meeting ended and everybody left.

“What just happened, Lord?” I asked. He chose to answer me by shining His light through the gentle words of my friend who called me this morning. Here’s what I learned.

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“Romans 12:9-10 says: Love must be sincere. . . Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

1. Love one another.

My gracious friend reminded me that before everything else, love. Perhaps I had lost sight of the fact that I had started this group to give women a place to create something that would glorify God. That it was through His great love that we were
being drawn together and if nothing else got done, loving each other was worth the time we spent in each other’s company. When you gather people together, Christians or not, there are bound to be conflicts. The plain fact is, we don’t always like each other’s style. But to honor each other as Christ asks us to, we must allow enough room for each person to grow in their own way. Some of us are daisies, some are roses, and some are mighty oaks. But we all flourish under the same sun. Can I look at that sister who always rubs me the wrong way and realize that she, too, is made in the image of God? That to dishonor her is to dishonor God Himself? Am I content to be quiet when she says something I don’t agree with, or is it impossible for me to not give my opinion? Maybe my opinion is right, and maybe it’s not, but it isn’t always necessary to voice either way. I could just quietly watch God growing her according to His agenda and timing for her, because He is doing the same with me.
“Romans 12:11-12 says: Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

2. Honor each other in prayer.

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My sweet, gracious friend asked me, “Have you prayed for them?” I had prayed for them, but perhaps my prayers could have been more along the lines of “what does she need, Lord?” instead of what would cause the group the least problems. According to God, our zeal—our fervency—is what makes prayers powerful. God is not the quick-fix-man. Snapping out a general prayer for your group members reminds me of the scene in The Sound of Music where Maria remembers who it was she forgot to pray for among the many children and quickly says, “And God bless Hans.”

I don’t want my prayer time to become a ritual. I want to know God’s heart when I pray. In fact, each day I approach Him by saying, “God, please draw me to Your heart. What is on Your heart that You want me to pray for today?” If you pray what’s on His heart, you will definitely be praying according to His will. Pray with zeal, and you release His power in the situation. If you don’t know what words to say, pray a scripture or give the Holy Spirit access to your voice and pray in the Spirit.

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“Romans 12:13 says: Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

3. Let others participate more.

My main spiritual gift is teaching. Frankly, I lack somewhat in the hospitality area, although I enjoy sharing my home with others. My friend reminded me that allowing others to participate by bringing food was an easy way to share “ownership” of the group. Even better, she suggested that

during the first meeting, I choose someone to keep notes, not like minutes of a meeting, but so that a recap could be sent out to make sure we’re all on the same page. Parameters should be set, such as start and end times, what will happen during that time, and so that I have an easy way to get people back on track if things start off down a rabbit trail. For my situation, if anyone wants to stay afterward and discuss things, that’s fine with me.

Letting other members of the group share their gifts actually fills a need in them. Everybody needs a place to share what God has gifted them with.

Taking on all the responsibility myself was neither honoring to my group members, nor to myself. And you know what? I already knew this. Satan, though, is able to cause blind spots that we don’t see until something goes awry and we wonder why.

Most of the members of this group had been in other groups with me and we had developed a very relaxed manner together. But new people had different expectations, and since this was not a Bible study but a creative class, I should have made the expectations clearer.

“Romans 12:15 says: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. ”

4. Sharing our hearts.

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Honor others by allowing them to share their hearts. But make it an absolute rule that what happens in group stays in group. Don’t share their stories with anyone they have not specifically told you to share with. (It is so very easy for gossip to be passed off as “I’m telling you this as a point of prayer.” Unless you have been given permission, believe me, girl: it’s gossip.)

An honorable person does not gossip. Don’t allow your members to dishonor others by sharing others’ “prayer needs” unless you know it is okay with the one being prayed for, either.

Honoring others means that what they think, say, and do in your presence is kept private unless they want it shared. All members of the group should understand this and be honoring in what they decide to share, too. Remember, you can’t unsay it!

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“Romans 12:16 says: Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

5. Live in harmony with each other.

Have you ever listened to the Gaither group sing? They harmonize so well it makes my soul tingle! At one time I was part of a church choir and sang alto. I love making harmony
with all the other voices.

When we live in harmony, we are like a choir of angels to God, who sees us making beautiful music together. Harmony takes more than a single voice. You can’t have harmony if everyone is a soprano. You need the other tones to blend together to make your special brand of worship rise to the heavens.

Yes, I said worship.

Because when all is said and done, our lives are acts of worship that we offer to God. Perhaps you think you can’t sing, but your life poured out in honoring others is a symphony that our Savior loves to hear.

4 Ways to Deny God

4 Ways to Deny God

How many ways do you deny your Savior?

Have you denied the God who sent His only Son to save you? There are several ways that the Scriptures specifically warn against denying God—are we guilty of them? Let’s look at them, one by one, and examine our hearts in the perfect Light of Christ, who is the Word of God.

“Titus 1:16:  They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”

 

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You deny God when you say you are a Christian but don’t act like one.

Jesus called the people when He was on the earth “an adulterous and sinful generation.” They were not worse than any generation before or since, except for one thing: He walked among them and they refused to recognize Him. He came to set them free from sin, and they did not acknowledge Him.

Acknowledging Jesus meant many things, but chief among them was that each person was a sinner in need of a Savior. The Pharisees and Sadducees were the religious rulers and teachers. They had the word of God, which they read religiously. That means that every day they sat in the Synagogue, speaking and arguing about what the Scriptures meant. They were so concerned about the letter of the law that they completely missed the Spirit of the law, even when He stood up and spoke before them.

At one point, Jesus called them foolish. He told them that they were so careful to wash the outside of the cups they drank from, not caring that they were filthy inside with greed and wickedness. He said they were guilty not only because they did these things, but because they also prevented people who wanted to know God from doing so.

 

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Can you imagine how angry they were when this Jesus, this carpenter, spoke to them in this manner? How dare He! They considered themselves holier than anyone else, and they lorded this self-righteousness over other people.

What do we think we do when we pass judgment on someone else because they are not meeting God’s standards of holiness? Do we think we are?

 

“Luke 18:10-13: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”

One of the worst ways we can deny our God is by denying we need to be saved. Even if we know, somewhere deep inside, that we are sinners just like everyone else, if we act in such a way that people  say we have a “holier than thou” attitude, we are denying that we need a Savior.

Even worse is that we are presenting what it means to be a Christ-follower in a bad light so that we are actually turning people away from Him. Like the religious hypocrites of Jesus’ day, we not only don’t go in ourselves, but we prevent others from going in.

So the next time you feel like cutting someone off in traffic while your fish bumper sticker says you’re a Christian, ask yourself if you are not like the Pharisee who thought he was better than the tax collector.

“1 John 2:22 says: Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.”

Denying that Jesus is who He says He is.

Jesus once asked His disciples who the people said He was. They responded that some thought He was a prophet, John the Baptist, or Elijah. But when He asked them who they said He was, Peter answered “You are the Messiah.” Jesus told him that God Himself had revealed that to Peter.

The word messiah means anointed one. In the Old Testament, people were anointed with oil as a symbol of being set apart and consecrated for God’s purposes, imbued with the Holy Spirit’s authority and power. God promised the Jews that He would send an ultimate Messiah and confirmed His word with over 300 Scriptures about the coming Savior.

“Daniel 9:2—Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.”
But who did Jesus Himself say He was?  He said that He was God in John 20:28-29. In that Scripture, “Doubting Thomas” sees Him alive for the first time and calls Him “my Lord and my God.” Jesus does not rebuke Thomas, but acknowledges that He is God by telling Thomas that those who have not seen yet still believe are blessed.

In John 8:58, Jesus tells the rabbis that “before Abraham was, I AM.” That was a name reserved only for God Himself, and the Jewish leaders tore their robes and then tried to kill Jesus.

In Matthew 26, Jesus tells the high priest while He is under oath that He is the Son of God, the Christ (Christ is the Greek word for Messiah).

He also declared that He and the Father were one.

People who say Jesus was a good man, a great teacher, a prophet, or anything other than God Himself are denying Him. He will not share His glory with anyone, and whoever makes Him less than He said He is is called “antichrist.” God sent Jesus to be the Savior of the world, and He did not provide any other way for us to be saved.

So if you talk to someone who tries to tell you that Jesus is less than God Almighty, that person is denying Him. The result is that when he stand before God, Jesus will deny him.

“2 Timothy 1:8 says: Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.”

Being ashamed of the Gospel

Some people would rather others not know that they are Christians. They do not stand up for Jesus when His name is maligned. They don’t necessarily say anything against Him, but neither do they open their mouths to protest, either. They’re the ones who are quiet when an inappropriate joke is told in the office, or who listen to the gossip about someone else who isn’t even present to defend themselves.

The people who daily interact with this person would be surprised to learn that she believes in Jesus, because she never opens her mouth to say anything good about God, even if she never actually says anything bad, either. She’s ashamed to admit that she is a sinner. She doesn’t even acknowledge that there is even such a thing as sin.

Jesus says plainly in Mark 8:38 that if we are ashamed of Him in the midst of a perverse generation, He will be ashamed of us before His Father when He returns in glory.

 

Committing Peter’s sin

“Matthew 26:73-74: A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.’  Then he began to curse and swear, ‘I do not know the man!’

Gerard van Honthorst [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If we think we’re doing pretty well up to this point—we aren’t hypocrites, we tell others who Jesus really is, and we’re happy to spread the Gospel—we need to open our hearts a little wider to that all-revealing Light. Because this next one is an insidious one.

Maybe you think we’ve already covered this one. But what Peter did—denying Christ—most of us do many times every day. How?

We listen to the lies of Satan in our minds, accepting and agreeing with what he says instead of agreeing with what we KNOW Jesus has said. Those worrying little thoughts, those niggling little lies that tell us we are not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough… they’re from Satan, not our Lord and Savior.

Aligning our thoughts with Satan’s thoughts is saying that we don’t know who Jesus is.

Because if we do know who He is, why do we not believe Him?

This is the worst one, in my opinion, because we hardly ever notice it, yet it prevents us from being effective in God’s plan. When we accept the lies of Satan, we turn over our power and authority to the enemy of our God and the one who desires to destroy our souls.

So the next time you’re tempted to listen to the thoughts you know are not from God, drag them into the circle of God’s Light. Because in that circle, everything made of darkness dissolves.