I read the book of Galatians in one sitting. I didn’t start off meaning to go through the entire thing, but verse 1:10 sunk a hook deep in my people-pleasing heart that pulled me all the way through:
Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ! (1:10, NET)
When was the last time I took people pleasing that seriously? How about you?
I do recognize people-pleasing as a problem, but I wouldn’t normally admit that tendency has the power to pull me away from Christ. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what pleasing people does.
When people say something God hasn’t said, and I start striving after that, my allegiances have shifted.
Perhaps this is why, when Paul encounters Jesus, he didn’t go to any people for advice or acceptance.
Paul writes, But when the one who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I could preach him among the Gentiles, I did not go to ask advice from any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, but right away I departed to Arabia, and then returned to Damascus.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and get information from him, and I stayed with him fifteen days. (1:15-18, NET)
I don’t know about you, but my first inclination would’ve been to run to the other believers and ask, “Am I doing this right? Can you help me? Is this okay? What do I need to do?”
And there is a place for godly counsel. But Paul warns us by example and in no uncertain terms why relying first on people is a recipe for disaster: They court you eagerly, but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you would seek them eagerly. (Galatians 4:17, NET)
It’s human nature to be wanted and to feel important, so some people will seek to control us. They’ll say it’s for our own good, but their real motivations might be much darker. And if we’re set on pleasing people, we’ll fall victim to it.
So, first and foremost, like Paul, our counsel needs to be Jesus himself.
How can we do this? It comes back to the basics: prayer and study. If we’re not reading the Bible regularly, we’ll lose sight of what it says and become distracted by what the people around us are saying. When we listen to the One who died for us, we won’t seek the approval of men.
The book of Galatians has a lot more to say about people-pleasing. If this was an encouragement to you, consider sitting down with the book and perhaps stopping back on Thursday for the second part of this post.
In the meantime, realizing how much Galatians has to say about such a recurring theme in my life has me wondering: which book of the Bible has met you where you are in an extra-special way recently?