The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Proverbs 29:25
In Galatians, Paul writes to the churches in Galatia because they have left the gospel for a hybrid religion that required both Christ and ceremonial law to be kept. He writes very directly and firmly because of the seriousness of the issue.
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. … 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. Galatians 1:6-7, 8
Confronting another always carries the risk of rejection, or relational strife. Paul knows his old self – the one that was a people-pleaser (as he says in vs. 10 If I were still trying to please men…implying he once did). People-pleasing, as the world calls it (also called peer pressure and co-dependency) is akin to fear of man, as God calls it. The idea that people have some sway over our hearts can be difficult to identify. Believe me I know, not only as a counselor for many years (it’s easier to spot in others) but also in my own life.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1
Just about the time we think we have overcome people-pleasing in one area of our life it morphs into another form of people-pleasing. And here’s the thing, when we are people-pleasing, we are a servant of people we are not a servant of Christ. That makes this very common issue pretty serious.
The person(s) whose reward of approval we desire most — whose curse of disapproval we most fear to receive — is the person(s) we will obey, our functional god. [i]
I found Tim Keller’s comments on “man-pleasing” from Galatians 1 helpful and thought-provoking.
“The gospel removes a ‘man-pleasing’ spirit– the drive to ‘win the approval of men’. It replaces the spirit with its opposite – not needing to win or seek human approval for what you do. In other words, the gospel produces confident and fearless followers of Jesus, doing what is right without concern for the approval and good opinion of others. Paul says he couldn’t be a ‘servant of Christ’ if he were a people-pleaser.
That is to say, a Christian cannot and will not be a man-pleaser. This certainly underscores its importance!”[ii]
Let’s see if I can make this a bit more personal.
Here are a few fear of man/people-pleasing identifiers:[iii]
- Do you struggle with peer pressure?
- Is your sense of peace and contentment dependent on another person’s sense of peace and contentment? In other words, are you okay only if the other person is okay? Your mood swings with their mood.
- Are you over-committed? Do you have a hard time saying no?
- Do you have “social anxiety?”
- Are you always second-guessing decisions because of what other people might think?
- Do you keep silent in a group for fear you will say something dumb or get laughed at?
- Are you afraid of making mistakes that will make you look bad in other people’s eyes?
- Do you replay conversations in your head to see if you said anything stupid? Does it keep you up at night?
- Do you get easily embarrassed?
- Are you shy?
- Do you shade the truth (lie or leave out certain details) to portray yourself in a better light?
- Do you avoid people?
- Do you compare yourself to others?
- Do you dress to impress? Or change your clothes multiple times to get just the right look?
- Do you refuse to pray in a group setting?
This list could go on and on because the sin of fear of man is as unique as each individual.
Fear of man is something to repent of because fear of man and fear of God are mutually exclusive. We can’t be doing both simultaneously. When we are fearing man we are not fearing God.
May we intentionally pursue a healthy, sanctifying fear of God. As we pursue Him whole-heartedly, we will fear man less and less as we draw nearer to the Almighty.
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! Psalm 33:8
I know this has been long, I hope you hung in there to the end and that it has blessed your heart. It has mine as I write.
Written by Diane Hunt: Diane Hunt serves part-time on the staff of America’s Keswick providing ministry support from her home in North Carolina. She is also a biblical counselor and women’s event speaker. For more information about having Diane speak at your next event please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Think About This: “Your suffering is not a sign that you’ve been forsaken; rather, it’s a sign that you live in a world that doesn’t function the way God intended and is in need of complete renewal.”―
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