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Pleasing Man

by Chip Brogden
A Christian who desires to give Christ the preeminence in all things will eventually discover that what God wants is often very different from what people want.

“Many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:42,43 ESV).

To give Christ the preeminence means that I value His will and His opinion above the wills and opinions of anyone else, including my own. That means the closer I am to the Lord the less of a man-pleaser I will be.

It is, I believe, human nature to want to please other people. Some people have a very bad case of it. They want to please everybody. That’s an extreme; of course some people only want to please themselves! But in the middle of those two extremes is where most of us are. We are very sensitive to what other people think: we want to be accepted, we want people to like us. And when other people are in a position to give us what we want it opens us up to fear fear of rejection, fear of punishment, fear of not getting what we want. It can all be summed up as the fear of man.

Most Christians I know want to please God but they also want to please people or please themselves and Jesus said no one can serve two masters. I’m not saying be rude and abrasive and uncaring. Jesus certainly was not rude or mean. But He always pleased His Father. He didn’t try to please people. You can love people, but you can’t please them.

There are three areas in which the fear of man finds expression. They are:

1) desire for appreciation,

2) desire for compensation, and

3) desire for promotion.

These three desires are very natural and very human, but they are also very self-centered. Now don’t feel condemned. If you’re human and you know it raise your hand! There’s nothing wrong with being human. You need to admit to being human because only then can you begin to deal with the weaknesses that are inherent in human nature.

All of us have some of this in our lives, we just need to recognize it and deal with it. For me, pastoring a church was one way I sought fulfillment in all three of these areas. I wanted to be appreciated, I certainly wanted to be compensated, and I wanted to be promoted meaning that I wanted a bigger church and a larger circle of influence. And when you can do what you think God wants you to do and be appreciated, compensated, and promoted all at the same time, then it is very difficult not to become trapped by that way of thinking. I thought I would be fulfilled, but instead I was in bondage to the fear of man.

Things were fine until I stopped being afraid of man. I began to look to God to fulfill my needs and I stopped caring whether other people appreciated me, or compensated me, or promoted me. God showed me that ministry was not about me, it was about Him. And so I started living for Him and speaking the truth. I stopped being afraid of people, and when they realized they couldn’t control me anymore, they didn’t want me to be their pastor.

Let’s look at the desire for appreciation. We all want to feel appreciated, wanted, and needed. I always joke that no one is truly appreciated until they are dead, so appreciate me now and avoid the rush. But really, the desire for appreciation is a snare. Why? Because it makes you a slave to other people. You start performing for them, working for them, and everything rises and falls based on other people liking you or not liking you. Can you see how this is going to be a problem?

Or how about the desire for compensation? We all want to be paid for our work, and the workman is worthy of his wages, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean doing everything with an eye towards getting rewarded; looking to other people to properly appreciate and compensate you for all you do. Well, that can become a snare. What if doing the right thing costs you your job or your position? You’ll be tempted to cut corners, keep people happy and avoid offending the people who have the power to reward you. That’s one reason why I could never go into politics, because you are required to be a man-pleaser. If you were to do the right thing, every single moment, you would undoubtedly offend the very people who were financing your political career. Pastoring is about the closest thing to politics I have ever been a part of, and I know now that I cannot go down that road.

How about the desire for promotion? The desire to succeed, to get ahead, to get noticed, to move up. I’m not saying that God wants you to be a failure, but I will say that the way God defines success and the way we define success are two different things. Paul was successful because Paul was obedient to the call of God on his life. But in the eyes of the world, and especially in the eyes of the Jews, Paul was a failure who wasted his education and squandered his gifts. See? Success is measured differently in the Kingdom of God. So how does the desire for promotion become a snare? Well, we start looking to other people to reward us, to help us climb the ladder, and then we get to the top of the ladder and find out it’s leaning against the wrong wall. By then it’s too late.

So you take all three of these the desire for appreciation, the desire for compensation, and the desire for promotion and it all leads to one thing: the fear of man. We become totally enslaved to people, and we become man-pleasers instead of God-pleasers. Like every other kind of fear, the fear of man is based on a misconception that people can reward me, and people can punish me.

But what does the Bible say? It says a man can have nothing unless he receives it from heaven. It says every good and perfect gift comes from God. It says God is the One Who promotes a person. It says if we trust in the Lord we will not be afraid of man, or what man can do to us. Again, all this hinges on our relationship with God, and how well we know Him. We only look to people when we believe that God isn’t enough. What a relief to know that even if other people fail to appreciate you, compensate you, or promote you, God does appreciate you! He will reward you, and He will direct your paths according to His Purpose, and His Purpose is good. His thoughts toward you are good. He knows you better than you know yourself, and He is certainly far more faithful than people. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. And so, with this kind of relationship with God, I can go without the approval of man.

That is the kind of person that can really serve people. You can’t serve people if you are in bondage to them. Sometimes love requires you to say and to do some tough things.

8 Comments

  1. Sharon

    What a good article. We all have our weaknesses, and mine is wanting to be appreciated. However, God is doing a new thing in me. For years I have kept silent, and that’s been taken as agreement. Although I did not face outward rejection, inwardly it did not feel so good.
    Lately God has been having me speak up (hopefully in love and at His leading). It truthfully feels like a breath of fresh air. The relationships that are of Him will remain. And they will be healthier as well.
    Its funny. The thing that I fear, is the thing that I am in bondage to. And I put that bondage onto myself.
    The freedom comes, when I realize that the bondage I have put onto myself, is worse (or at least more constant), than the thing which I fear.
    Fear of man shows an unhealthy fear of God. For if I really trusted in God, I would not fear man.I know this is difficult to explain, but if I more fully trusted in the goodness of God, I would not elevate man to that place where I fear him.
    Chip is talking about the cross in the discipleship program. What I am learning is the cross, by killing those things in me that need to die, (such as crazy misconceptions about God), that resurrection life does come, with freedom from these irrational fears.

    Reply
  2. Sharon

    Yes, I’m seeing that to build on man, and that includes ourselves, is to build on sand. The storms will come, and the house will fall.
    Only by building on the Lord, can we be secure.
    He is our only Security. He is our only Sure Thing.
    Everything else will fail or fall.

    Reply
  3. Denise Freed

    I AM one of those people who have a VERY bad case of wanting to please people. I am afraid of opening my mouth in fear of coming across as being too abrasive or mean. This is a deep seeded root in my life and has been for as long as i can remember. Self-love is a real problem for me also. I have been praying for God to teach me how to not fear man and how to rid myself of me. I thank God for using you to get such articles out as this one to the people like myself who need to hear them. Again i say, thank you!

    Reply
  4. Charlotte Cardozo

    Fear is not of the Lord we got to know that He that is in us is Greater than he who is in the world. Thank you Lord for your Amazing Grace for we can humble ourselves as little children and trust that you the one in control. May your Name be high and lifted up for you Regin

    Reply
  5. Ken Dawson

    It is obvious that when Gods being inside of us is in control we will be pleasing unto our Lord–and then we may very well not be pleasing to the natural humans.

    Reply
  6. sherry

    My issue would be, needing to be accepted by doing what others thought I should. I have actually been ridiculed for not doing something with my life how someone else thought I should. When this happens you become a prisoner to them. It is absolute bondage. The Lord opened my eyes one day that I didn’t have to live that way. I still struggle with this because I don’t want certain people angry at me for any reason. But this way of life is so tiring and eventually resentment sets in. We cannot please people because there will always be something else that wasn’t done right. Its never ending.

    Reply
  7. Laura Grace

    Very good. thank you! I needed this.

    Reply
  8. Sheri

    To shower ALL with the Love of Jesus, Bless all etc. Keeps us outside of mans domain and into HIS Keeping. For our focus is not on man or self, but pleasing the Lover of our very soul. Jesus.

    Reply

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