Are you a People Pleaser?

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10).

In the margin next to this passage I have written,

I still want to please others.  This makes me a servant of many masters, not Christ alone.

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Being a people-pleaser is one temptation to which I can easily fall prey.   As a pastor it is one I have to constantly guard against.   Like anyone else, I want people to like me, to agree with me, to be on my band-wagon.

Over the years this has taken on many forms.   Engineering blog posts and Facebook statuses that will attract more fans, preaching sermons that will impress those in attendance (both in the pews or online), or pursuing recovery for the sake of mending torn relationships with family and friends are just some of the many ways I have tried to please people in the past.

The scriptures remind me again and again that what ultimately matters is not the good I do but why I do it.   Motivations matter to God.  Anything done for the purpose of pleasing people is sin.   As Paul says to the Galatians (quoted above), if we are still trying to please people we are not servants of Christ.   Jesus put it this way:  You cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24).

Consider these other calls from Scripture for us to examine who we are trying to please:

  • For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God (John 12:43)
  • But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)
  • But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts (1 Thess. 2:4).
  • Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Col. 3:23)
  • And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28).
  • How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)
  • Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord (Jer. 17:5)
  • Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice (Prov. 29:26).

These are just a sampling of all that scripture has to say on the matter, but the bottom line is this:  our desire to please people comes from a misplaced fear.   We fear (revere, esteem, regard) people more than we do God.   Proverbs says that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10).   When we have a proper fear of the Lord we will seek to please Him alone and care less and less about the approval of people.   Jesus lived this out perfectly, doing only that which his Father did (John 5:19).

For me this means that whatever I write and say, in public or private, needs to run through a filter where I ask the questions: Is this for the purpose of pleasing God?  Does it bring people closer to Jesus?  Am I seeking the glory of man or the glory of God?   It means that I check my motivations and ensure that my desire to stay sober is not solely for the purpose of keeping my wife happy but because to do otherwise would be displeasing to my Lord.  I’ve been bought with a price and therefore I shall honor Him with my body (1 Cor. 6:20).

When we confess that our desire to please people is a sin, revealing that we fear man more than we fear God,  we find there is grace sufficient to meet us in our need.  We find forgiveness for our insane (and let’s admit it, the desire to make everyone like us is insane!) and exhausting struggle to be liked by everyone and in it’s place we receive peace and rest for our souls.

  • The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe (Prov. 29:25).

For further reading on this topic I highly recommend 

When People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man by Ed Welch.  

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8 thoughts on “Are you a People Pleaser?

  1. Good stuff Chad. This was really what I needed to hear today. I have been reading your blog recently and have been very blessed and challenged. Thanks for being vulnerable and honest, and allowing the Lord to work through you. God bless you brother!

  2. You may or may not realize how apropos this post is with the lectionary this week. It says in Isaiah 11:3: “His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.” Delight is a variation of the same word ruach used for the Holy Spirit. It literally means to take in a whiff of a pleasing aroma. Immediately after verse 4 says he will not judge by his eyes or ears. To delight in the fear of the Lord is to be dissatisfied even with what my eyes and ears call beautiful but to perpetually seek the One who is beauty with the acute sensitivity and longing connoted by the word “fear” and to want to share in His delight. So the fear of the Lord IS true delight though certainly not at first glance. Anyway Isaiah 11 + your commentary have basically given me this Sunday’s sermon and it’s only Tuesday. Thank you.

    1. Morgan, no, I had not realized there was a connection (I’m off lectionary at least for now). I’m glad this was helpful, even though I am a little jealous that you have your sermon already in the barrel. 🙂 blessings this Advent.

  3. It is a sad fact that Christian leadership has been adversely affected by that sinful attitude. It was the same attitude that Jesus confronted when He ministered during His walk here on earth. Those who serve Christ in ministering to His body need to be especially fearful of fearing man rather than God, because that can be a huge door through which much error, compromise and apostasy can flood in to the harm of God’s church. God bless you:)

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