They Loved the Praise of Men

Most of us given a choice would like to be well thought of and spoken well of for our life and beliefs rather than to be reviled, criticized, and despised. This is natural and easily understood but there is danger that this natural desire lead us into sin. When one gets to the point where he cares more about what people think than what God thinks and what God commands he is in trouble, in trouble with the Lord and Savior.

In studying the subject of why faith fails we find an account of a group of men who had this very problem – the desire for the praise of men.

“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. ” (John 12:42-43, NKJV)

Sometimes we want to please men too much. While it is good and proper to want to have a good reputation among men and be well spoken of it is but folly to sell one’s soul for it. Paul says (Gal. 1:10, NKJV), “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ. ” Man’s duty in life is not to seek to please men but rather to please God, his creator. We live for God, not man.

We have been purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28, Eph. 1:13-14). We have been bought by him and we are his, he owns us, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. ” (1 Cor. 6:20, NKJV) We are the sons, the children of God (1 John 3:2), “his own special people” (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV).

The praise of men is vain. It cannot keep the sorrow out of our heart when death strikes our families, it cannot keep the pain away that hits us in the pit of the stomach when a son or daughter goes wrong or becomes alienated, it cannot keep us from growing old and feeble, it cannot take our place at the grave. In the really important things of life it is but vain.

Those whose praise we so often seek are those whom we see as being more important or powerful or influential than ourselves. We seldom seem concerned with being praised by the poor man or one whose circumstances are humble. We do not care about the opinion of the man with the eighth grade education, or the janitor, the trash man, or the cleaning lady. We are arrogant. We are only interested in what you think about us if you are one whom we deem better than others. At a very minimum you must be one of our peers, as we see it, before we are interested in your praise.

This attitude itself is sin. All men stand equal before God. We are to show partiality to none. James speaks of this in James 2:1-6 (NKJV), “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place, ‘ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there, ‘ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool, ‘ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. “

Peter tells us (1 Peter 2:17, KJV) “honor all men” or as the ESV states it “honor everyone”. With God one man is as good as another and we are to be that way as well, followers of him. Indeed of those who are more powerful and influential God has said, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. ” (1 Cor. 1:26, NKJV) The words “are called” are supplied words to complete the thought. All men are called by the gospel but the meaning is that not many of this class of people, the wise, the mighty, the noble, will respond to God’s call. And, yet, this is the class of people whose praise we so often desire.

If we will be faithful and obedient we will in due time receive honor, honor from God. Paul tells us God will mete out tribulation and distress to every soul of man who does evil “but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. ” (Rom. 2:10, NAS) Glory and honor from God in the last day. This is the praise we need to seek. It is an honor that will not die with men nor fade away with time but will be eternal.

We learn from the rulers who loved the praise of men more than the praise of God that truth by itself is not always the determining factor in the way men live and conduct themselves even when they know the truth and are not deceived. A man can know the truth as did these men, as did the rich young ruler, as did Demas and yet it does not make enough difference to them to get them to alter their lives and bring them into accord with the truth.

The second sin ever committed was of this very nature. Paul says of Adam that he “was not deceived” (1 Tim. 2:14). Adam knew the truth; Adam believed the truth; and Adam willfully disobeyed the truth. Temptation was to him greater than the truth he knew and greater than his faith and love for God.

There was a time in my life when I had the idea, before I learned better, that I thought just teach a man the truth so he will see it and know it and he will most certainly obey it. WRONG! The examples of men here already mentioned provide the proof.

There are things that motivate men over and above truth. Adam’s desire and love for his wife, a desire to please her, won out over truth. The rulers who believed in Jesus but would not confess him found that the praise of men was more important, a greater motivating factor, than truth. While it is easy to be very critical of them honesty of heart would compel most of us to admit similar guilt in our own lives on occasion. We have held our peace when we should have spoken up for the desire to be well thought of among those whom we were with at the time was greater than our desire to take a stand for Christ and the truth. Is there any who are not guilty or have not been guilty?

The word “fear” is not mentioned in reading about the rulers who believed in Jesus but would not confess him. It was there nonetheless. The fear of being put out of the synagogue, the fear of bringing down the displeasure of man, of no longer being spoken well of, of being ostracized was foremost in their mind. As it was with them so it often is with us when we refuse to speak out. We desire the praise of men and to be well thought of more than we desire the praise of God and yet we know that this praise is only for a time, transient.

In the sermon on the mount Jesus warned us all when he said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you. ” (Luke 6:26, NKJV) A man who has not incurred the disfavor of at least some is a man who has never taken a stand. Jesus says the blessed man is not the one all speak well of but rather “blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. ” (Matt. 5:11, NKJV)

Paul told Timothy, (2 Tim. 3:12, NKJV), “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. ” If a man is being persecuted he is not being praised by all men. Yet, we find in looking at the qualifications for elders that a man “must have a good testimony among those who are outside. ” (1 Tim. 3:7, NKJV) How do we deal then with what appears to be a contradiction?

That can be answered by considering who the persecutors of Christians will be. If you are an honest person who works hard most people will honor that. The ordinary person who is fair appreciates the good others may do. If you are helping the poor, the homeless, the orphans, the elderly, about everyone will consider those things to be good works and be pleased to see you working at that. These are the things the Bible teaches that Christians ought to be doing. < /p>

In the book of Ephesians, (Eph. 2:10, NKJV), Christians are said to be God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. ” Peter says, (1 Peter 2:12, NKJV), that we are to have our “conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. “

Those who speak evil of the faithful Christian usually do it on the basis of their disdain for Christianity itself. They do not want to be brought under the control of Jesus’ teaching. They do not want to be seen as sinners and so scoff at the Bible and are willing to persecute vocally those who believe and uphold its teachings. They love their sinful lifestyles and resent any teaching that would imply they are in error or cast them in a bad light. In America they want a secular society where God is cast out.

In the religious community Christians are persecuted both by those of other religions such as the Islamic religion and by those who claim to be Christians but want the Bible to be interpreted in such a way as to allow them to live and do pretty much as they please. To this group the Bible does not actually mean what it literally says but each succeeding generation can fit it into the changing culture as it so desires and feels the need for. It was never meant to be taken literally is their idea.

Thus those who speak evil of the Christian usually do so for religious reasons for even atheism is a form of religion. In New Testament times the pagans had their idols and the Romans their emperor worship. I believe Paul in talking about the qualifications for an elder when he says he must have a good report from those on the outside was speaking about the man’s honesty, his good works, etc. . No man can live a faithful Christian life and have all men speaking well of him continuously as it pertains to his religious beliefs and practices. Jesus did not, Paul did not. The Bible does not contradict itself.

When a man wants the praise of men above the praise of God there is no end of the concessions he is willing to make. He will concede eternal life itself as did the rulers who are the subject of this article (John 12:42-43). He most certainly will concede on doctrinal matters. Is it not true that the desire for the praise of men is behind much of the extremely liberal views of the Bible? The New Testament is clear in its teaching on subjects such as baptism, the role of women, homosexuality and yet it makes but little difference to many. We must be politically correct and pleasing to the culture of the time. To teach against things such as homosexuality is considered hate speech.

How do we overcome the tendency we all have to want to be well thought of and liked by all? We need to measure the cost. What is the cost of seeking the praise of men over the cost of seeking the praise of God? Which pays better? Which pays longer? Which brings greater honor and glory? Each must make a decision. Our heart will lead us to choose one way or the other. The choice is one of free will. What will you decide?

In the words of Joshua, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”. (Joshua 24:15)

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