Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. [Galatians 1:10 (NLT)]
The motto “The customer is always right” was coined in the early 1900s by retail pioneers Marshall Field, Harry Selfridge, and John Wanamaker. A variation commonly heard in business is, “The boss is always right!” But, because they’re human, we know that neither customers nor bosses are always right. Nevertheless, even when the boss clearly is in error, he remains the boss. We may lose a customer if we fail to please him but we can lose a job when we fail to please the boss! Since one’s livelihood depends on a paycheck, an employee faces a dilemma when the boss clearly is wrong.
Rather than pleasing customers, bosses, or anyone else, the Apostle Paul pointed out that his purpose was to please God. This morning, as I read his words to the Galatians, I thought of a friend who had to choose between the unprincipled man who signed her paycheck and the King who ruled her life. When her employer gloated that she couldn’t afford to quit over a question of principles, she had the boldness of heart to reply that she didn’t work for him; she worked for God! It wasn’t easy to leave a sizeable paycheck behind but she did. She was Christ’s servant and, as her boss, He was the One she served. With her heartfelt commitment to God, the only approval she sought was His!
Hopefully, we won’t find ourselves in my friend’s position where choosing between pleasing God and our employer means leaving a job. Nevertheless, we must always remember who our true boss is! When we seek people’s approval, we accept their standards rather than God’s. Along with tempting us to turn a blind eye to injustice, compromise our ethics, or be complicit in wrong-doing, trying to please people can lead to over-commitment, flattery rather than honest assessment, exaggerating our stories, embellishing our lives on social media, spending more than we should, or becoming obsessive about our appearance. The only approval we should seek is that of God!
Seeking man’s approval rather than God’s never ends well. When Aaron sought the Israelites’ approval, a golden calf (and plague) were the result. Seeking the approval of the nations surrounding them, the people of Israel wanted a king; they rejected God and got Saul. Hoping to please the people, Pilate handed over the innocent Jesus and released the guilty Barabbas. In an effort to please the Jews, Herod persecuted Christians and killed James. Fearing people’s disapproval and excommunication from the synagogue, John tells us many Jews who believed in Jesus refused to follow Him because “they loved human praise more than the praise of God.” [12:43] Our desire to please God always must outweigh our desire to please people.
Whether we’re seeking the approval of a customer, boss, or anyone else, our value and worth do not come from people, paychecks, or accomplishments; they come from the Lord. We must never please others (or ourselves) at the cost of pleasing Him! Rather than seeking man’s approval, Jesus told us to seek the kingdom of God above all else. He promised that, if we live righteously, He will give us everything we need. [Matthew 6:33] We are, indeed, God’s servant and He is our boss!
If you please God, it does not matter whom you displease. And if you displease Him, it does not matter whom you please. [Steven J. Lawson]