People Pleasing or God Pleasing
“…We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.
Hello again friends, I hope this day finds you well. We are continuing our journey through 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. As I was reading through the 1st letter, verse 2:4 jumped off the page – specifically, “please people”. Do you know any people who live their life to please people? Are you a “people pleaser”? Before you answer that, let’s look at what a people pleaser is.
The positive aspect of a people pleaser is that these individuals genuinely like to make people happy. They put other’s needs before their own, and love to give to others through acts of kindness and sacrificial service. There is actually a gift of “helps” (1Cor. 12:28; see Rom. 12:6-8). There is nothing wrong with wanting to help people. As a Christian, Kindness is a fruit of Holy Spirit, and would express itself by serving others. Motivated by love, “people pleasing” is a God-like quality.
Our verse above has a context, and implies that people pleasing, in this situation, is not a good thing. Let’s read the first 6 verses of chapter 2:
“You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2 We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed-- God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.”
Paul suffered a pretty traumatic experience in Philippi (see Acts 16:19-24), and while preaching the gospel in Thessalonica (see Acts 17: 1-10). The temptation might have been to tone down, soften or even change the preaching style, or God forbid, change the message itself. But that’s not Paul! He chose to be faithful to God, and preach despite the consequences. He checked his heart to make sure the motives were pure, and determined to preach to please God rather than please people. He was not living for the praise of people!
We learn a lot from this passage on people pleasing. The word used for “please” means to satisfy, win someone’s favor. It implies a striving to adjust to someone’s opinions, desires, and interests, often at the expense of one's own needs or desires. In other words, to be really practical, we alter what we say or do because of someone else’s potential reaction, or potential feelings. Now, just think about that for a moment! I know someone is easily offended or is under a controlling spirit, so I allow that “evil spirit”, that attitude, that offence in that person to alter the way I speak or behave. So, I am giving power to that “demon” to control my behavior. What brought this on? A previous experience with that individual. For instance, last time I spoke about Jesus with that individual, that person got angry, so I am not going to talk about Jesus to that person or anyone else. Or, I am going to alter the message so it is not so offensive. Lord help us! Do you see what that is? It is fear based-living!
Psychologists realize that people pleasing is a real condition that can hinder someone’s emotional development. When a person grows up in a home absent of love, affection, affirmation and encouragement, that person learns to strive for approval by continually trying to please the parent, sibling, spouse, child, etc. Can you see how damaging to the psyche (soul) that can be? That individual is literally held captive to that fear operating in them, and spirit of control operating in the other person. That learned behavior of people pleasing is carried all through life, into a myriad of other relationships. People pleasing manifests in anxiety, fear anger, frustration, not being true to oneself, low self-esteem, compromise and unhappiness, just to name a few.
Friends, it is not just in the family setting, it also happens in the church. I have encountered a controlling spirit in a church leader, where as a pastor, I was always trying to please that individual and get some approval. Bondage! The Lord set me free from trying to please people!
Living to please people allows the religious spirit to thrive. Religion lives by rules and regulations, and expects everyone else to adhere to these bindings. Have you heard of Pharisees? Jesus couldn’t stand them. This word “please” appears 3 times in 1Thessalonians. Here is what Paul thought of religious Jews (remember he was a Pharisee) –“For some of the Jews killed the prophets, and some even killed the Lord Jesus. Now they have persecuted us, too. They fail to please God and work against all humanity”(1Thess. 2:15).
Paul, and Jesus for that matter, were individuals of “no compromise”. They had a resolve to be authentic, true to their calling and mission, not allowing others to control nor hinder their ability to fulfill that call. Paul makes a remarkable statement in Galatians about pleasing people or pleasing God: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ”(Gal. 1:10). Did you see that??? If one lives to please people, he or she is not a servant of Christ! Paul! Such strong language! If we live to please others, we please no one. Maybe, we are the only one who feels good about our choice, but most likely not. It is a no win situation.
Who do we live to please? Paul answers that in the third use of the word “please” in 1st Thessalonians: “As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more” (1Thess. 4:1). We live to please God! Maybe it’s time to let God “test our hearts”. Who controls your life? Jesus? Your parents? Your spouse? What patterns have I developed that prevent me from being true to my call, and fullness of life in Christ? Break Free! And live to please Jesus!
No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. (2Tim. 2:4)
Have a great week!