For most Christians and for most of the time, we rarely come to the point when we need to consciously make a choice between pleasing people, and pleasing God. To find ourselves in a position where we need to consciously make such a decision, we are, to put it mildly, probably in bad shape. Something, or someone, has jolted us out of our daily and earthly apathy and we need to decide who is in charge; who’s blessings, who’s respect, who’s requirements, who’s commands are we to honour.
Typically, we will then weight the odds and make an “informed” decision and come up with what is apparently termed as “a value judgement.” Then we act. If we made the wrong choice, we then deal with the consequences as best we can, casting blame and excuses abroad to lessen our pain and embarrassment, choking on humble pie as we do.
The question is, is this a biblical position to be in?
As I considered this question it came to me that the opportunities for conscious decision making between pleasing God and pleasing man, rarely come around. However, I believe the most common opportunities we get are those there we make our decisions unconsciously. In other words, we are making choices and decisions about pleasing people or pleasing God, without even a second thought. “But these as all in small things!” we say, as we justify ourselves, to ourselves. The trouble is, a big decision or a small decision is still a decision; and if all decisions we make are for people and against God, I think we may be in a bad place.
The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:10
“For now do I persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
In other words, Paul says if a man chooses to please mere men, rather than God, he is not a Christian. Bluntly: pleasing men before God, is biblically unchristian.
Actually this theme permeates the whole Bible as flattery and false prophecy are linked and intertwined. In Ezekiel 12:24 and Ezekiel 13:2-3 we see the Lord’s attitude to those false prophets who would speak their own words, to please the people. Such false prophets looked to personal gain by flattery, while ignoring sin – be it their own sin, of that of the persons they are advising. Yet it was not only false prophets who indulged in giving vein comfort through lies and flattery, many leaders also did:
Lamentations 2:14“Your prophets have seen false and foolish things for you, and they have not uncovered your iniquity, to turn away your captivity; but they have seen false oracles and seductions for you.”
Ezekiel 13:15-16“And I will fulfill My wrath on the wall and on those who daubed it with lime. And I will say to you, The wall is no more; and, Those who daubed are no more; the prophets of Israel who prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, says Jehovah.”
Zechariah 10:2“For the family idols speak iniquity, and the diviners have seen a lie and have told false dreams. They comfort in vain; therefore they wandered like a flock; they were troubled because there was no shepherd.”
This desire to please man at the expense of God can be so pervasive and so ungodly that it can empower the demonic to enter and take over. First Kings 22:6-28, gives a particularly powerful example of this when Israel’s King Ahab and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, were considering entering into battle and called for a Prophet for God’s advice. The following is from Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible called The Message:
“The king of Israel got the prophets together — all four hundred of them — and put the question to them: “Should I attack Ramoth Gilead? Or should I hold back?”
“Go for it,” they said. “God will hand it over to the king.”
But Jehoshaphat dragged his heels: “Is there still another prophet of God around here we can consult?”
The king of Israel told Jehoshaphat, “As a matter of fact, there is still one such man. But I hate him. He never preaches anything good to me, only doom, doom, doom — Micaiah son of Imlah.”
“The king shouldn’t talk about a prophet like that,” said Jehoshaphat.
So the king of Israel ordered one of his men, “On the double! Get Micaiah son of Imlah.”
Meanwhile, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat were seated on their thrones, dressed in their royal robes, resplendent in front of the Samaria city gates. All the prophets were staging a prophecy-performance for their benefit. Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had even made a set of iron horns, and brandishing them called out, “God’s word! With these horns you’ll gore Aram until there’s nothing left of him!” All the prophets chimed in, “Yes! Go for Ramoth Gilead! An easy victory! God’s gift to the king!”
The messenger who went to get Micaiah said, “The prophets have all said Yes to the king. Make it unanimous—vote Yes!”
But Micaiah said, “As surely as God lives, what God says, I’ll say.”
With Micaiah before him, the king asked him, “So Micaiah — do we attack Ramoth Gilead, or do we hold back?”
“Go ahead,” he said. “An easy victory. God’s gift to the king.”
“Not so fast,” said the king. “How many times have I made you promise under oath to tell me the truth and nothing but the truth?”
“All right,” said Micaiah, “since you insist.
I saw all of Israel scattered over the hills,
sheep with no shepherd.
Then God spoke: ‘These poor people
have no one to tell them what to do.
Let them go home and do
the best they can for themselves.'”
Then the king of Israel turned to Jehoshaphat, “See! What did I tell you? He never has a good word for me from God, only doom.”
Micaiah kept on: “I’m not done yet; listen to God’s word:
I saw God enthroned,
and all the angel armies of heaven
Standing at attention
ranged on his right and his left.
And God said, ‘How can we seduce Ahab
into attacking Ramoth Gilead?’
Some said this,
and some said that.
Then a bold angel stepped out,
stood before God, and said,
‘I’ll seduce him.’
‘And how will you do it?’ said God.
‘Easy,’ said the angel,
‘I’ll get all the prophets to lie.’
‘That should do it,’ said God.
‘On your way—seduce him!’ “And that’s what has happened. God filled the mouths of your puppet prophets with seductive lies. God has pronounced your doom.”
Just then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah came up and punched Micaiah in the nose, saying, “Since when did the Spirit of God leave me and take up with you?”
Micaiah said, “You’ll know soon enough; you’ll know it when you’re frantically and futilely looking for a place to hide.”
The king of Israel had heard enough: “Get Micaiah out of here! Turn him over to Amon the city magistrate and to Joash the king’s son with this message, ‘King’s orders: Lock him up in jail; keep him on bread and water until I’m back in one piece.'”
Micaiah said, “If you ever get back in one piece, I’m no prophet of God.”
He added, “When it happens, O people, remember where you heard it!”
A fairly clear example of blatantly pleasing man, rather than God.
In order for Christians to know what decisions to make when such questions and situations arise – know this – we must follow God! If we can get this into our minds, if we can mediate on this, then when the small examples arrive in our lives, our subconscious decision making, our unconscious decision making, will align with God automatically and we will make the right decisions all the time.
We all have to come to the position in life where all we do and all we think, aligns with God. This is how we live out Galatians 1:10 and know that we are indeed Christians.