The Dangers of a Yes Man by Larry W Peebles August 26, 2016 16.32
I don’t know if I would have made a good soldier. I voluntarily subjected myself to the military draft in the late 1960s, but was never selected. In those days, the draft was conducted by a lottery drawing. The order in which birthdates were drawn determined the order in which those subject to the draft were called for service in the military. The year I was eligible, my birthdate was drawn so late in the lottery my local draft board filled its quota before they got to my number.
I have always had a reluctance to follow orders until I knew the reason behind the orders, so following orders in the military without knowing why would have been difficult for me. It is simply not in my character to say “yes” or “yes sir” without knowing the big picture-the objective. On the other hand, once I have understood the reasons for an order, and buy in to the plan, I have had no trouble following orders and respecting the person in authority. In short, I am not a good “yes man”, which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “a person who agrees with everything that is said; especially one who endorses or supports without criticism every opinion or proposal of an associate or superior.”
The concept of a yes man is not new. From Biblical times, both the Old and New Testaments contain interesting stories and warnings concerning this subject. During the time of 1 Kings 22 (and 2 Chronicles 18), when the children of Israel were split into two kingdoms, we learn that Ahab was the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah. Three years prior, a treaty had been struck with Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, but there remained disagreement over the possession of Ramoth Gilead, a territory claimed by Israel but taken by Aram. Ahab wanted to advance on Ramoth Gilead to re-take it, and sought Judah’s assistance in the war. Ahab threw a big feast in honor of Jehoshaphat, and asked if he would go down to Ramoth Gilead with him. In 1 Kings 22:5, Jehoshaphat responded wisely “First seek the counsel of the Lord”. The counsel of the Lord had left Ahab due to his disobedience (see chapters 20 and 21 of 1 Kings). Nevertheless, he called on four hundred of his so-called prophets (false prophets), and asked if he should go to war or refrain. They responded (v. 6) “Go…for the Lord will give it into the king’s hands.” They told him what the king wanted to hear. I’m sure the king smiled with delight, because he wanted to take the city back more than he wanted the truth and wisdom from God.
Jehoshaphat had the discernment that these were not prophets, rather mere “yes men.” He asked (v. 7) “Is there not a [real] prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?” Ahab responded (v. 8) “There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.” The prophet Micaiah was summoned to the gathering. He was warned by the messenger that the other prophets were not only encouraging Ahab to fight, they were also making wild and brash predictions about the gore and destruction of the Arameans. Micaiah agreed to come, but cautioned (v. 14) “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.” This is not the response of a yes man. It is remarkably similar to what Jesus said in John 12:49-50 “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” How very wise for a man to seek first and solely the wisdom of the Lord on a matter, for it leads to life; and how very wise for a prophet to neither add to nor detract from a word from the Lord.
When Micaiah arrived he sensed the atmosphere. The king immediately asked him if he should go to war or refrain. Micaiah knew what he wanted to hear so he answered sarcastically (v. 15), using the very words of the false prophets -“Attack and be victorious…for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” Sensing the sarcasm, the king pressed him to tell what he really heard from the Lord. In verses 19-23, Micaiah told the king that he should not proceed to war, that instead every man should go home. He also described a vision from the Lord where he saw a lying spirit had attempted to deceive Ahab through his prophets. He concluded by saying “The Lord has decreed disaster for you.” Speaking the truth landed him a round of insults, followed by a stay in prison on bread and water.
This provoked Ahab into a final decision. He ignored Micaiah, and proceeded into battle against Aram. Ahab died in the battle, and his army retreated at the end of the day. He had believed the lie, and it led to his death. Although the truth would have saved his life, out of his own pride he refuted the truth because it did not agree with what he wanted to do, and it ended in disaster for him.
In the New Testament Timothy, assistant to the apostle Paul, and described by Paul as “my true son in the faith”, received the following warning from Paul in a letter. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self- control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-having a form of godliness, but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (2 Timothy 3: 1-5). We must also honestly admit we can see this around us today. We can see the pride in Ahab, and the form of godliness in his false prophets from the story above.
Paul goes on to say in his letter in 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Those who say what itching ears want to hear are “yes men”. Those who want their ears scratched or rubbed are looking for a massage, not a message. Jeremiah 6:14 warned about prophets and priests (yes, even the church) who say “Peace, peace….when there is no peace.”
Society in general, and yes even the church, sends messages intended for itching ears. These include messages that people are not required to change because repentance is outmoded. Do what feels good. People are basically good, and there is no need to deal with sin. A person can come to Jesus just as they are, and stay that way. God is so loving he will not judge anyone. God wants his children to be healthy, wealthy and content in this world.
The truth is that God’s ways and priorities are different from ours. He is more concerned about our character than He is our comfort. He is more concerned about our forgiveness than He is about our finances. He will speak the hard truth for our own good. We can come to Jesus just as we are, in a low and sinful state, but He will operate on us by grace through His Holy Spirit until we are convicted and convinced of the need for a change for our own good.
Rather than walk away from hard truth, consider these additional words from Paul’s letter to Timothy, a remedy for today’s situation. “Preach the word (as an official messenger); be ready when the time is right and even when it is not (keep your sense of urgency, whether the opportunity seems favorable or unfavorable, whether convenient or inconvenient, whether welcome or unwelcome); correct (those who err in doctrine or behavior), warn (those who sin), exhort and encourage (those who are growing toward spiritual maturity), with inexhaustible patience and (faithful) teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2, Amplified).
A yes man answers according to the current direction of the wind. The truth is not dependent on the wind. A yes man answers according to what he thinks one wants to hear. The truth speaks of what one needs to hear. The truth is not a philosophical concept. The truth is a person, Jesus Christ. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). When we know the Truth (Jesus), we can recognize the truth. We can then be ready at all times to both speak the truth and hear the truth. This leads to life. A yes man is no help at all. The danger of a yes man is his half-truths and lies ultimately lead to destruction.