Pleasing Men or God

A Man, His Son, and a Donkey

There is an old fable about a man and his son who were walking beside their donkey as they headed to market. A passerby ridiculed them for walking and not riding the donkey. So, the father put his son on the donkey and walked beside it. The next person they saw scolded the “lazy” son for making the poor father walk while he rode. So, they changed places, but then the next person they passed criticized the father for making the “poor boy” walk. So, they both got on the donkey, but then someone got upset about the “poor animal” being so weighed down. Lastly, the father and son, desperate to please the people, tied the donkey’s feet to a pole and carried the animal on their shoulders. However, those who met them on the way to Market Bridge laughed them to scorn for carrying the donkey.

It’s Not Possible to Please Everybody

The obvious moral of this story is that no one can please everyone. As Christians, we must strive to please the one whose approval really matters, regardless of whether or not we find favor with others.

Along these lines, the apostle Paul said, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). Paul knew that he could not please both men and God; so, he chose to please God.

A Human Tendency

Yet, there is a tremendous urge to please others, especially peers, in order to win their approval. This is because self-esteem is based largely on the approval that one receives from others. On the other hand, God is invisible (1 Timothy 1:17). The only way to be assured of having His approval is to comply with His will as it is revealed in His word.

This is not enough for many people. They not only want the audible and visible approval their friends can give them but they also want to do what they know their friends will approve. They will even select friends on the basis of whether they approve of what they want to do.

With this in mind, it is not so surprising that the apostle John said that many of the religious authorities of his day believed in Jesus, 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).

What Really Matters is God’s Approval

Anyone who wants to go to heaven just needs to be concerned with pleasing God and having His approval. If your life is pleasing to God but does not meet with the approval of others, that is their problem, not yours.

You need to remember that the one who strives to please God cannot always please those in the world. Participation in the sinful beliefs and practices of this world is “hostility toward God” (James 4:4, NASB). Instead of seeking the acclamation of others, your primary objective must be to please the Lord. “Do your best to win full approval in God’s sight” (2 Timothy 2:15, GNB).

–(Adapted) Gary Eubanks