Can a Person be a God-Pleaser and a People-Pleaser? Lessons from the Prophet Amos

I must make a confession. I am naturally a people pleaser. I do not like controversy. I do not like when people are in conflict. I am by nature a peaceful person. Having this tendency makes it difficult at times. When working in a supervisory role at a manufacturing facility, this aspect of my personality was confronted. By nature of the role, supervisors are not going to please everyone. When employees slack off and do not perform their duties, it is the supervisor’s role to confront them and encourage them to perform better. A woman who worked at the facility in that role for many years had several wise quips and quotes pertaining to the supervisor’s role with problematic employees. She would say, “If they get offended at you for doing your job, they’ll get over it or die with it one,” meaning that a person would eventually be able to let go of their anger or it would make them bitter. But, she also said something that truly resonated with me. She said, “If no one ever gets angry with you, then you are not doing your job.”

In a similar fashion, the same holds true with the Christian, and especially the pastor. While Christians should “if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18);[1] it must be noted that if a Christian holds any integrity, any character, and any convictions, then that Christian will NOT please everyone. Why? It is because that when someone stands for truth, those who are guilty of unrepented sin will be convicted and will be upset, if not angered. Such was true for the prophet Amos. Amos was met by a fellow prophet named Amaziah. Amaziah was a prophet who delivered a popular message that said something like “You are okay. The king is okay. The government is okay. I am okay. We are all okay the way we are!” Amos came preaching a message saying, “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,’ declares the LORD. Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:11-12). Amaziah, from the Northern Kingdom, told Amos, who came from the Southern Kingdom, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom” (Amos 7:12-13). Did you catch that??? The temple is of the people and not of God. What did Amos say? Amos said, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’” (Amos 7:14-15). Amos had the call of God. Amos pleased God but did not please people. Amaziah sought to please people but did not please God.

Jesus warns the Christian of the same. Jesus said, “Do not think that I come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword…whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34, 38-39). In other words, you cannot please people and please God.

This seems to even affect churches. Some churches desire emotionalism and entertainment rather than solid foundational teaching. When a church has reached a point that it is more concerned with appeasing people than pleasing God, that church has ceased to be a church and has rather become a community club with a cross on top. A preacher must ask oneself, “Am I preaching to receive a pat-on-the-back? Or, am I preaching to hear God say, ‘Well done’?”

So what about you? You may be like me. You may not want to cause trouble. You may not like controversy. But if you stand for Christ, eventually trouble may find you. Will you keep standing? As Jesus said, “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:27-28). As for me, I am more concerned about God’s opinion of me than the opinions of others. While I do not like controversy, I understand that God through Christ will ultimately bring complete peace. Who do you desire to please: God or people?

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

Copyright April 2015. Brian Chilton