Who am I Trying to Please?

Who am I Trying to Please?

Note: I’m cross-posting this from my wife’s devotional list. I’ve been writing a number of devotionals for her during a season when she’s often too busy to write them. This one I thought might apply rather broadly right now, especially during the elections.

10So is it people that I’m trusting now, or God? Do I try to please people? If I tried to please people, then I wouldn’t be a servant of Christ! — Galatians 1:10

What is your final authority? How do you decide what is right and wrong?

In this passage, Paul makes it very clear. He doesn’t put his trust in people. He doesn’t try to please people. But even more forcefully, he says that trying to please people is incompatible with being a slave (or the more gentle servant) of Christ.

Now if you read the whole passage from which this verse is take, at least Galatians 1:6-24, you’ll find that Paul is talking about the gospel, the message the he had preached to the Galatians. He was not prepared to give up the gospel of Christ for anyone. It didn’t come from people, he didn’t learn it from people, and he was not going to give it up for anyone.

But I want us to look behind Paul’s concept here for something that is more universal. Normally when people teach from this passage they are telling us to look at Paul’s gospel, and to stick with that. And I think it’s good to check your understanding of the gospel against what Jesus and the apostles preached. But I don’t think that quite gets to the point.

The question is this: Whom do you serve? There’s a Sunday School answer to this. Of course, I serve God. Or I serve Jesus. But are you sure of this? Is your Christian experience well-founded? Can you defend it, most importantly to yourself? Or is it swayed by every suggestion that others make.

There are good reasons to change your opinion on something, even if it is some aspect of the gospel. You might change because you are convinced that the scriptures teach something different from what you have believed in the past, so you change. You might be convinced by a careful examination of the evidence. You might be convicted by the Holy Spirit. It might be a combination of those factors. Being able to change for those reasons is good.

But there are some other reasons you might change your opinion, and they’re not so good:

  • Your opinion is not popular
    We are hammered with opinion polls in an effort to make us think certain things are popular, as though that would make them right. In politics, yard signs and bumper stickers are based on this idea–if you see enough people who support a particular position, perhaps you should too. Don’t buy it!
  • Somebody with credentials argues against what you believe
    Whether the credentials involve advanced degrees, popular acclaim, or apparent anointing by the Holy Spirit, you still need to check for yourself. You can find someone with credentials to support almost any position.
  • Someone else has a different experience
    Our experiences may not match. It is good to re-evaluate your own views based on what you share with another, but don’t expect everything to be the same.
  • Another message is repeated over and over again
    Much of television advertising is based on this concept. If a message is repeated often enough, you may believe it. If you don’t know why you believe what you believe, it will be easy to be led astray.
  • You are threatened
    I remember once in college I was having a political debate, and after I had made a point, my opponent announced that he was going to punch my lights out. An observer muttered, “Well, that will convince all of us!” Unfortunately, we often are convinced by threats, not usually threats of violence, but rather of isolation.

Whether it is a question of the gospel, your understanding of doctrine, politics, or even policy at work, ask yourself this: Who am I trying to please?

2 thoughts on “Who am I Trying to Please?

  1. You are of course right that we ought to try to please God, and to trust God, and you are also right that it is not always easy to stay focused on this.

    Good post!

  2. Why should anyone need to please God?

    You got on a roll here about Paul writing that he doesn’t please men in preaching the gospel and in your list of ways we might please people, but pleasing God is not the only alternative. I don’t find anything in the first chapter of Galatians about Paul pleasing God directly. Gal. 1:15 is about God pleasing Himself in His use of Paul.

    In refuting whatever false teachers Paul is cursing in Gal. 1:9, Paul writes about accepting a gift from God, for Paul’s sake and for the sake of others, a gift not from flesh and blood, but from the Spirit, as Paul describes in all his letters, such as Romans 8:9.

    What Paul described was not trying to please God as modern people do, through praise, worship, studying what they believe to be God’s word, and doing whatever they think will please God. Paul was being one with Christ. I wish it were as easy as saying it was a simple matter of love between God and Paul that drove Paul, but I suspect that’s too simplistic. There is some momentum behind any experience with God that drives people. People wish to acknowledge God and Jesus as Lord through their obedience. I doubt that any analysis can capture exactly how God drives people, but I don’t think it’s about pleasing God. That certainly wasn’t what Paul was doing.

    I think it is true that nothing from men can substitute for God. I think enough experience proves that. I wish communicating with God were easier than it is, but I find that it is easier than some believe. Praying to God about this issue was when I first trusted Him over anyone else. If He can’t lead me to the method by which He wants to lead me, what hope is there for anyone?

Comments are closed.

Comments are closed.