Does it matter what others think of you?
Some would vehemently argue saying, ‘No, of course not! What others think of me is not my problem it’s their problem.’ Others might not verbalize their response saying, ‘Yes, I am overly concerned about what others think of me,’ but they may live that way without ever articulating it. Potential reactions aside, what, then, is the Biblical answer to the opening question?
Well, on the one hand the answer appears to be “no.” Jesus warned His people: “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Lk 6:26). False prophets were, and are, typically so bent on people-pleasing that they either twist or ignore God’s revelation to win the applause of men. Even those who were adversaries of Jesus saw in Him a holy indifference as to what others thought of Him:
“Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God.” (Mk 12:14 ESV)
This trait was also a mark of the apostle Paul’s ministry as well. After declaring that anyone who preached another Gospel was to be accursed (Gal. 1:8-9) he asked, “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” (vs.10). People who are ‘men-pleasers’ don’t usually go around hurling anathemas at those who preach another message of salvation. Similarly, he told the Thessalonians: “As we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thes 2:4). By God’s grace Paul refused to seek popularity over faithfulness to Christ. His primary obligation was to please God. His primary goal was God’s approval. Should he have forfeited those purposes he would have abandoned his calling, committed humanistic idolatry, and been man’s servant, not God’s.
So, on the one hand, it looks as though Christians should not be concerned about what others think of them. But on the other hand, the way the apostle Paul lived showed that it mattered what men thought of him. Paul sent Titus and another companion to Corinth to collect the money the Corinthians had set aside for the poor saints in Jerusalem with the intention of avoiding any controversy as to his role in the collection. He told them, “avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us; providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Cor 8:20-21). He handled the situation in such a way as to avoid having his ministry discredited by what other people thought. He wanted the situation to be handled honorably “not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (vs.21). This concern for what others think includes but is not limited to the local church. One of the requirements of an elder is that he “be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Tim 3:7). When the early church chose men to come alongside the apostles and help in the service of food to the widows, the requirement for these men were that they were “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3 emphasis added).
Though little is known about him, in John’s third epistle he referenced a man by the name of Demetrius who had “a good testimony from everyone” (3 Jn. 12). And we must not forget Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
How are these two Scriptural perspectives to be reconciled?
When we see them in the light of one another, interwoven in the totality of Scripture, we can say that what other people think matters in so much as it relates to the reputation of Christ and His glory being displayed. If Christ is honored in and through your life then what other people think is secondary. To some you’ll be the fragrance of life; to others the aroma of death. You can’t control what others think, but you must be careful to make sure they do not have reasons to discredit the Christ you confess because of your behavior. So then, because you care about Christ’s name, you do care about what people think. Not because you feel a need to be liked or praised or perceived as impressive, but because you want to make sure that the Savior Christ you represent is not misrepresented, and as a result maligned, because of your actions.
See the balance?
May you be exhorted today to care about what others think for the glory of Christ and not care about what others think for the sake of yourself.