The Big Problem With People Pleasers

May 12, 2017

John 12:42-50

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

CONSIDER THIS

Today’s text provides us with a powerful definition of the word coward. Did you see it?

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

The old hymn comes to mind, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus.” So why wouldn’t Jesus’ supporters stand up for him? It’s called cowardice. It’s because we fear men more than we fear God, or as the text has it, we love the accolades of people more than the affirmation of God.

Did you catch this from the text? many even among the leaders believed in him. Why would they say, “even among the leaders,” as though that should surprise us. Maybe it’s because the leaders weren’t leading. Here’s the hard truth. They were following. They wavered between two opinions—what the Pharisees thought of them and what Jesus thought of them. There’s a word that captures this malady suffered by so many leaders: people pleasing. O.K., two words. Here’s the surprising truth. At the heart of people pleasing is the fear of people. The proverb says it well: Fear of man will prove to be a snare but whoever trusts in the Lord will be safe. Proverbs 29:25.

People pleasers tend to rise quickly in the ranks because they curry favor with those who can help them advance. As a result, the higher they rise the greater their cowardice. It’s why people tend to loathe politicians. And yes, this is particularly acute in the church. The great irony of people pleasers is they aren’t really loyal to the people they are trying to please. Their loyalty is to themselves. It’s why often the greatest leaders aren’t found in positions of leadership.

Let’s be clear. The desire to please people is not a bad thing; just deceptive. This can come from a heart of deep love. We just need to take care that our interest in pleasing people is not our own interest in protecting ourselves. And of course, the goal is not to be a people offender. The aim is to be true to God.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who shows us what it looks like to perfectly love people and love God at the same time. Thank you for showing us this way of serving people, not in order to please them, but in order to love you and in loving you to become vessels of your love for them. Come Holy Spirit and lead us in this way. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. Do you struggle with being a people pleaser? Why do you think this is the case?
  2. What would happen if you were suddenly freed from the need (and even compulsion) to please people?

3. Why do we tend not to respect people-pleasing leaders? How can we help them (us)?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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