Humanity craves acceptance by others, to be well-liked, and thus part of the ‘in crowd’. To boost their self-worth in the opinion of others some will resort to behaviour changes overriding their morality and sound judgement. Yet pursuing the approval of others is flirting with idolatry, putting self before devotion and commitment to God, upholding His values and having a good testimony in the world. A focus on popularity is an obsession with self which the Bible describes as the pride of life, having an inflated view of our own importance (1 Jn 2:16). Even when the choice to please others does not involve open disobedience to God, pride is at the heart of the desire for popularity with God hating pride in any form (Prov 8:13; Jas 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5).
Popularity is an elusive god that many have blindly chased to their own destruction. Becoming power crazy, arrogant and intoxicated with their own popularity, they become people pleasers losing sight of their true identity, yet subtly exert tremendous influence as examples or role models for others. Even humble and godly people, who have been idolized because of their leadership or other outstanding capabilities, will experience a time when their bubble will burst and the attention and popularity is then diverted, by changeable human nature, to another person or movement. In fact, if we have elevated people to this degree, we may be the reason for their downfall as God will not share His glory with another (Isa 42:8).
Do I want to be popular with God or man?
He recognised the seductive temptation that teachers and preachers face, to teach what itching ears want to hear, the socially accepted cheap gospel that doesn’t offend or require sin to be addressed, and other false teaching and heresies rather than the whole counsel of God that at times can be confrontational (Act 20:27; 2 Tim 4:3; 2 Pet 2:1). The instruction of Jesus was not to make converts (those who follow at a distance with little visible change their lives) but disciples which involves radical transformation in one’s whole life (Mt 28:19).
Don’t compromise your values to be liked
convictions or compromise on God’s Word to gain or maintain people’s allegiance or vote. Am I prepared to make a stand against popular opinion to do what God’s Word requires, realising it is impossible to serve two masters with opposing viewpoints and goals (Mt 6:24; Act 4:19)?
When Jesus gave some very direct teaching, this caused many of His followers to desert Him, for even “speaking the truth in love” seldom increases a person’s popularity (Jn 6:60-66, 12:42,43; Eph 4:15). The crowds built up again, because of the miracles and on Palm Sunday hailed Him as “King of the Jews”. The religious leaders of His day were jealous of Him and ultimately turned the hearts of the people so that, within a week, the same crowd cried, “Crucify Him” (Jn 12:13, 19:15).
John the Baptist commented when the people flocked to Jesus rather than to him “Jesus must increase and my popularity decrease” (Jn 3:26-30). What a humble attitude; he was not jealous because he knew that he had been called to prepare the way for Jesus (Lk 1:76). We too must be faithful to our call to point people to Christ regardless of the crowds or lack of them (1 Cor 1:12,13).
The opinions of the majority are not necessarily correct or in agreement with God’s will. Caleb and Joshua’s faith-response was in contrast to the other 10 spies and ultimately the whole Israelite nation (who were over 20 years of age at the time this decision was reached), failed to enter into their inheritance some 40 years later (Num 14:29-35, 26:65).
See also: acceptance, cheap gospel, compromise, example, false teaching, fame/famous, heresy, jealous, peer pressure, role model.