Who Are You Trying To Please?

Dr. Randall McElwain


It happens every day…

A fifth grader playing soccer looks to the stands to see if his dad saw him make the goal.

An employee makes sure his boss knows, “That money-saving idea came from me.”

Mom makes a last trip through the house to make sure everything looks nice before guests arrive. We post on Facebook and then check every few minutes to see how many “likes” we have received.

We want to please people. That isn’t entirely bad. A child has a natural urge to make his parents proud. A hostess who doesn’t care if her house is sloppy isn’t showing respect for her guests.

But for those of us in ministry, this can be dangerous. Two characters in the story of Passion Week cause me to ask, “Who am I trying to please?”

Pilate wanted to please the crowd.

Pilate knows that Jesus has done nothing to deserve death, but he can hear the crowd shouting, “Crucify him!” (Mark 15:14) Pilate must decide, “Do I satisfy the demands of justice or do I satisfy the demands of the crowd?”

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” (Mk 15:15).

For Pilate, pleasing the crowd was more important to doing what was right.

Joseph of Arimathea wanted to please God.

Joseph of Arimathea had been a secret disciple because he feared the Jewish leaders (John 19:38). But in the aftermath of the crucifixion, Joseph is forced to decide: “Do I please the Jewish authorities or do I please God?”

This was not an easy decision. Jesus had been condemned by Rome. Joseph was taking a risk by associating himself with a convicted criminal. He risked his position on the Sanhedrin when they learned that he is a supporter of Jesus. But he determined to please God.

Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus” (Mark 15:43).

Joseph determined that his place on the Sanhedrin mattered less than his place in the kingdom of God. Pilate wanted to please the crowd. Joseph of Arimathea wanted to please God.

Who are you trying to please? Pastors, who is your audience? Are you preaching to please the crowd or to please God? Musicians and worship leaders, who is your audience? What matters most to you; the approval of the crowd or the approval of God?


Lord, you alone are worthy of worship. You alone must be my ultimate audience. Give me the single-minded focus that allows me to worship you alone with my preaching, my teaching, my music, or my service. Give me the lasting joy of knowing that I am serving for your glory.

To learn more about serving to the glory of God, see Lesson 8 (“Planning and Leading Worship”) of the Shepherds Global Classroom course, Introduction to Christian Worship.

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