Who are we living to please? This was the thought running through my head all day yesterday- because people-pleasing has always been a struggle- and the dreaded “comparing myself to others.”
1 Thessalonians 2:1-6 (working for the Lord- not to please man)
1 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face 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 those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people 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 people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.
I want to become more like Paul. But how do we stop? Tell me if you also have found yourself doing some of these things.
Being proud of what I have accomplished, and that I am not like others doing those “really bad things.”
Or commending ourselves for those things that we feel convicted about- for how much we are sacrificing- and seeing others who we don’t think are giving enough.
Comparing ourselves to others, looking to others to affirm us, taking too seriously others rejection and censure, seeking to please man before God.
I was reading 2 Cor. 10 as part of my “homework” for BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) this week- and I came across this verse-(v12)- We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense.
Now I am a big fan of reading things in context- esp. with Scripture- to avoid the tendency to make it say what we want it to say- but I love what Paul says here. And in context he is speaking to his own limitations and that his conscience is clear, he has done what he believes was required of him and does not concern himself with others expectations, nor does he boast in anything but the Lord alone (vs. 17).
It is so easy though to compare ourselves to others. I find myself doing it far too often.
Making sweeping judgments about people that I don’t even really know. Or at least, not intimately enough to account for how they spend every moment of their day.
The comparison game drives people apart in churches all the time-we make assumptions about people – thinking we give more time than they do and why don’t they give more- or how can they not be passionate about this ministry or am I the only person who cares about ____ (fill in the blank)?
But so often we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt while assuming the worst of others.
People have a tendency to exhibit a self-serving attribution bias, that is to attribute positive thoughts and motives to our own actions but negative thoughts and motives to factors beyond one’s control e.g. others, chance or circumstance.
This is a known and studied psychological principle. Watch for it, and you will be amazed how often we see it in action.
Example: Have you ever been driving somewhere and realized you weren’t paying attention and were doing 10 miles below the speed limit- then you look in your rear view mirror and see someone riding your bumper? You may think to yourself- “geez, no need to be so impatient”- or feel offended that this person is riding your bumper.
We immediately may assume this person is a reckless driver and rude for riding so close behind us. But what if they have a family emergency? We don’t know what is causing them to drive fast, yet, I believe we have a tendency to get defensive- to protect and defend our own motives while assuming others have the worst.
Here are the two points to take away with you:
- Let’s work to please God first and foremost- and even at the exclusion of man at times.
- Recognize our tendency as humans to compare ourselves with others and to rule more favorably for ourselves- and pray that God will help you to cultivate humility and compassion for others.
All these things serve only to distract us from seeking to please God first and last. We are not to seek to please people- and if we do or we don’t- that should not influence our desire to serve in the capacity the Lord has called us to.
We are only to obey Him- for He holds us accountable and knows our hearts like no man ever could.
Paul’s confidence and ability to suffer many trials for Christ was directly related to His right thinking about this very thing. He did not concern himself with pleasing man, but only with what was pleasing to God.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 (This section of 1 Thess. is called Living to Please God (in the NIV))
1 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. 2For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
I pray that today we may seek to be obedient to God’s call on our lives, to repent for the sin in our own lives, and with humility consider others above ourselves (Phil 2:3).