2nd Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 4) LSB #573
Text – Galatians 1:10
For am I now trying to persuade people or God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a slave of Christ.
SEEKING TO PLEASE
Do any of these statements describe you?
• Tired of living under too much pressure.
• Looking for a way to get out from under all the stress.
• Wanting to try something different.
Do you regularly feel like you could: a) kick the dog; b) use a stiff drink to calm your nerves; c) hit someone; d) run somebody over with your SUV; e) chuck everything & walk away; f) scream at the top of your lungs. Being a people-pleaser can lead to every one of those emotions. Being a people-pleaser to the extreme is self-destructive.
Many pastors suffer from that damaging tendency. They enter the ministry because they yearn for the outside validation that comes from helping others. Their personal feeling of security & self-confidence is based upon gaining the approval of others. At the core, people-pleasers have a difficult time believing that they can be part & parcel of anything good.
Lack of confidence comes in several different ways as the result of sin. First off, knowing that we are sinners makes us aware of how often we fail at what we attempt in life. Secondly, lack of confidence comes from a fear of putting all our trust in the ability of the Triune God to work through even failures like us.
The constant striving to gain the approval of others is what then feels like living under pressure. People pleasers to the extreme can never get enough validation to overcome their feelings of insecurity. They can never gain enough approval to overcome the temptation to doubt their value & their worth. They are tempted by the devil & their own sinful nature to believe that anything which goes wrong in this life is somehow their fault. People-pleasers suffer from a twisted understanding of sin. People-pleasers agonize because of a corrupted appreciation of what gives life on earth its value. Being a people-pleaser to the extreme is a violation of the 1st commandment – “You shall have no other gods.”
If I’m a people-pleaser who is my god? Is it the people I’m trying to please? That answer seems logical, & there is some truth to it. Yet, the true idol behind an extreme need to please others is self. If you are an extreme people-pleaser, you are your own god. It’s you that you’re trying to validate. It’s you that you’re trying to build up & gain approval for.
If you are always seeking to please others you are confused about where the people around you begin & about where you end. Setting healthy boundaries simply means having a realistic understanding of you can, & what you cannot do. Are you seeing now how that ties in with the 1st commandment?
Believing it is your responsibility to keep everyone happy is to take the place of God. Setting limitations on your availability may seem callous yet, it is simply an acknowledgement that you are not God. If you don’t set limits, others will, & chances are their limits for you will be as wide & as broad as their own needs.
It’s not like God didn’t set the precedent. After all, what are the Ten Commandments if they are not healthy boundaries? You shall have no other gods, not even yourself. Honor your father & your mother. Don’t kill, steal or covet. Those are half of the commandments. Hopefully, you can name the others.
In St. Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia, he is refuting the charge that he’s a people-pleaser: “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a slave of Christ.” Did you catch Paul’s acknowledgement there of the 1st commandment? If I were a people-pleaser, I would not be a slave of Christ. But Paul is a slave, & as such he is following the healthy boundaries set by his heavenly Father. The apostle Paul is fighting against his desire to find validation in what he does. He has given up works righteousness & is relying only upon the grace of God to find value & worth in his living. He wrote, “For to me to live is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21 ESV)
But the people at the church of Galatia were being taught that Paul was being too easy on them. People were accusing the Apostle of being a people-pleaser just so he could gain converts. This business of trusting solely in the grace of God could not be the whole story, they said. Each human being still had to do something to earn God’s validation.
As it turns out, it was the Galatians who were being people-pleasers. They had given up the truth of God’s salvation message in order to accommodate their culture. For their false teaching, St. Paul calls down the curse of God upon them. His words remind us of Jesus’ warning in Mark 9:
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck & he were thrown into the sea.” (9:42 ESV)
False teaching is not to be taken lightly. By definition, it leads people away from the truth. Therefore, it leads people away from God, & the only place in all the universe that is away from God is hell. Since God is good, & God is love, & He is the same yesterday, & today & forever, then hell can only be evil, filled with hatred, & it must be so forever!
All human beings are sinners. We are born natural people pleasers. We love to put & keep ourselves at the center of our universe. We love to get a pat on the back, & detest having a kick in the rear, but as sinners discipline is necessary for our salvation. We are born headed in the wrong direction, away from God, & only our Creator can turn us around, turn us back.
People pleasers to the extreme can never get enough validation to overcome their
feelings of insecurity, no matter how many good things they do, even in the Church. Their problem is that regardless of how hard they work, they are headed in the wrong direction & therefore, will always end up in the wrong place.
Hard work is necessary in a broken world. It is God who tells us for this life, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Our eternal future, however, has nothing at all to do with hard work on our part. That is entirely a gift from our Creator, given to us by Jesus, who recreated the saintly nature within anyone who believes in Him.
If we want to “feel” validated, we need to look at the price Jesus paid to redeem us. When tempted to doubt our value & worth, seeing Jesus hanging on the cross is what tells every child of God exactly how much value & worth we have as God’s children. The love displayed on the cross, & that love alone, is what draws us back, what turns us back, to what is good.
In each of Satan’s lies, there is a little bit of truth. People-pleasers or not, we are tempted by the devil, & our sinful nature, to believe that anything which goes wrong in this life is somehow our fault. There is truth in that lie because some of this world’s brokenness is a result of our lack of love for God & for others.
The lie is that not everything is our fault, & the lie is also that we are responsible for doing something to make up for it. We can’t fix the brokenness of this world. We can’t fix even one sin. All of us together can never make up for all the hurt & agony & pain of this life. In that context, what validation can we possibly find in what we do?
Every single hour & every single day brings more heartache & sorrow to someone, somewhere. If we can’t fix it all, how are we validated? If we can’t fix it for everyone, what value & worth can we find in what we do? Only the Creator of all there is can be the answer. “In the beginning God created the heavens & the earth,” & before the beginning He already had a plan for rescuing, delivering & re-creating every thing there is. The Word of God tells us about this plan. The Word of God tells us that it is finished.
On the day of Pentecost, it was an incontrovertible fact that Jesus had risen from the dead. Sadly, it is also an incontrovertible fact that many, throughout history, have chosen not to believe that fact. That unbelief continues to this day. To the people of his days, & ours, to believers & to those who have fallen from the faith, St. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ & are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you & want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9 ESV)
That is strong language, the likes of which we are no longer accustomed to hearing in our politically correct society. Mainstream politicians, even if they are children of God, are loathe to take such a clear stand. Priests & pastors across Christianity are loathe to make such a clear & pointed case. We can find people-pleasers anywhere we look.
The only ‘unforgivable’ sin, in the eyes of our world, is to call someone else’s religion wrong, or false. Yet, false religions are leading people to hell every hour of every day. All gods claim to be true, but only one God has sent His own son to die in our place while we were yet evil. That the true God did so leaves no room for doubt in your heart about anyone’s worthiness.
Our salvation is not about our “worthiness.” If believed, that gives us the ammunition we need to fend off Satan’s temptations to validate ourselves. People pleasing can go by the wayside while sacrificially loving & caring for people takes its place. All of that is possible when you are secure in the knowledge of God’s unconditional love for you. When you find your value & worth in the fact that our heavenly Father took the time to personally create you, & to prepare good works in advance, for you to do, then you don’t have to find value & worth in what sinful human beings think of you. It is our own sinful nature that is the source of all our insecurities. Jesus has overcome that sinful nature by living a perfect & holy life in our place.
The Gospel as good news is a familiar theme for Lutherans. We hear it, & we hear it again; the news that Jesus died for our sins & then rose from the dead. For Jesu’s sake, sins forgiven, peace with God, eternal life. We become so accustomed to hearing it that it’s not surprising we sometimes wonder, “Is that all there is?”
Do other religions, spiritualties, beliefs, pieties, or churches offer more, add something? Should the gospel be “updated,” made more palatable to a wider range of people, a bit more cosmopolitan & inclusive? It’s a quest so modern, yet so ancient too.
Certain teachers, trouble makers, showed up in the churches of Galatia founded by St. Paul. They pressed to accommodate within the gospel of Jesus & His righteousness, just a few strains of man’s good works to be saved. Shall we have the gospel as it is, or a revised gospel to please more people?
St. Paul, by the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, said, “No! Hell is at the end of that road. Turn back while Christ is still calling you. Let those who willfully deny the truth be damned.” Amen.
Lord, ’tis not that I did choose Thee; that, I know, could never be; for this heart would still refuse Thee had Thy grace not chosen me. Thou hast from the sin that stained me washed & cleansed & set me free & unto this end ordained me, that I every live to Thee. It was grace in Christ that called me, taught my darkened heart & mind; else the world had yet enthralled me, to Thy heavenly glories blind. Now I worship none above Thee; for Thy grace alone I thirst, knowing well that, if I love Thee, Thou, O Lord, didst love me first. Amen. LSB 573:1-2
 2 Thessalonians 3:10b
 Genesis 1:1 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet