Are Christians supposed to please people? Christians often confuse “becoming all things to all people” as a command to try to please everyone so that everyone will give approval of that person. Jesus warned, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26 ESV). Pleasing others for their approval was not what Christ and the apostolic writers taught. In 1 Corinthians 9, the apostle Paul revealed that he made himself a servant to all to win them and he became “all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor 9:22). However, Paul also professed, “For though I am free from all, I made myself a servant to all” (1 Cor 9:19 ESV). How does a Christian reconcile Paul’s words with “I try to please everyone in everything I do” (1 Cor 10:33).
Pleasing God over People
Paul’s words did not mean that Christians are bound as people-pleasers, but that Christian seek only to please people to save and edify others. Paul also declared, “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” (Gal 1:10). The approval of God over man is the key qualifier of any Christian’s effort to please others. Paul also observed, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Cor 5:9). The apostle confessed,
For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. (1 Thess 2:3–5)
Furthermore, Paul professed the Christian’s goal, “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more” (1 Thess 4:1). Paul urged Timothy, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Tim 2:3–4). Pleasing God is first and pleasing others is what God has determined to save and edify others.
Life Application of Pleasing God
The Christians objective is not to please one’s employer, but to please God and obey one’s employer from the heart. The apostle exhorted,
Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. (Col 3:22–4:1)
The Christian objective is not to please one’s spouse, but to love and respect one’s spouse with the unconditional love that God gives everyone (Rom 5:8; 8:35–39). Paul revealed,
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Cor 7:32–35)
Each Christian must remain devoted to God. If one is married and the love is not there, a Christian does not need a spouse’s conditional love to find love and joy in God (Gal 5:22–23). However, Christians remain married despite the difficulties of marriage (1 Cor 7:10–16).
When to Please People
There are two passages that may appear to indicate that a person should please everyone in all things. Concerning offending weak brethren, Paul exhorted, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me'” (Rom 15:1–3). The effort here is to love rather than become burdened by the judgments of others that Paul rejects (1 Cor 4:1–7). Likewise, to give no offense so that others stumble away from Christ, Paul declared, “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor 10:32–33). The objective for pleasing other was to save souls and edify the weak. Christians have no reason to burden oneself with the judgments of others and those who are constantly unsatisfied.
The Christian is set to pleasing God and not conforming to the world. Christians serve others from love to save and edify them. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2).