Believer, Know Thyself

Jesus said “No” to people-pleasing by breaking down barriers in order to serve. His knowledge of human nature allowed him to recognize all people as sinners in need of a Savior and himself as the only One worthy of receiving their worship. A second principle then for saying “No” to people-pleasing is to know ourselves rightly.

Know Thyself (Mark 10:45)

Jesus refused to be crowned an earthly king (John 6:15) because he had come to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He had to first redeem the lost before reigning as “King of kings” when he came to them again (Revelation 19:16). Therefore, during his earthly ministry, Jesus often shunned the honor and praise of men. Many times, he told the ones he healed to keep quiet about his miracles  and instructed his disciples to conceal he was the Christ.  Once, when he cast out demons from a demoniac named Legion, the man wanted to become his disciple. Yet Jesus told him, “No! Stay home. Evangelize your family and friends” (see Mark 5:18-20). Jesus did not seek a following to make a name for himself, for he did not come as an earthly king.

In John 6, instead of launching a megachurch with his adoring mob, Jesus turned away many by teaching them the hard truths they didn’t want to hear (vv. 22-71): “I have not come to be your king or to help you overthrow the Roman oppression. I don’t do miracles on demand, for your greatest need is spiritual salvation. You are sinners in need of a Savior.” Jesus knew himself to be the Savior needed by all. So he called himself, “the Bread of Life”—a picture of the food required for salvation and sustenance (vv. 35, 48, 51). He called himself, “the Son of Man”—the Messiah promised in the Scriptures (vv. 27, 62) and “the Son of God”—an explicit claim to deity (v. 40). His disciples also called him, “the Holy One of God” (v. 69), yet Jesus did not seek the crowd’s approval. He refused to let them crown him king because he knew his own identity.

Application Insight: You will try too hard to please people when you have forgotten who you are. You will look to them for significance, love, and approval, when they become larger than life: “If only my husband encouraged me more. If only my wife respected me. If only my children listened. If only my boss valued my skills.” The world conditions you to believe that you cannot be happy unless your felt needs are met by others. So you fight with your spouse, get angry at your children, or disparage your boss when they fail to satisfy your need for approval.

Some of these who turned away from Jesus would soon be calling for his crucifixion (Luke 23:18-23; John 19:6, 15). Their people-pleasing signified a preoccupation with self. So when Jesus would not meet their fleshly demands, they grew angry and sought to kill him. Their desire to exalt themselves transcended their worship of Christ. Jesus came as Savior to put our desires to death (Matthew 16:24), yet too often we kill others with conflict when we feel our desires threatened (James 4:1-2).

Application Insight: Consider the reason you work. Your motivation might combine a desire for money, respect, a love for helping others, feelings of significance, and ambition for prestige. Yet even good desires can become demands which lead to conflict and then to sin. Are you a people-pleaser at work? Do you take on more than you can handle at the expense of your family? Do you get angry at subordinates? Do you pander to your boss? You become a people-pleaser when you see others only as the means to fulfill your own desires.

One problem with anointing people as kings instead of Jesus is that we can never fully please our fellow sinners. Yet the bigger problem is that we want to be kings ourselves. So we please others in order to exalt self. We flatter and cajole, berate and inflate, lie and deceive. We make others feel good about themselves, so they will give us what we want. In John 6, for example, the Jews didn’t really want Jesus to be king, but saw him as a puppet who could grant them the right to rule themselves.

Application Insight: You must refuse to take the throne of your life when you know your self-identity, for you are God’s beloved children and the very friends of Jesus (15:14). You are Christ-followers and Great Commission disciple-makers. You are chosen and forever assured of your salvation (6:37, 40). You are loved by the Father and redeemed by the Son (Romans 8:28-39). You are blessed recipients of eternal life who will one day live forever in a glorious, resurrected body (Revelation 21:1-5). Let these truths sink deep into your heart. Then know that you need not seek the approval of men, for you already possess the approval of God (Galatians 1:10). You can accept that certain people may sin against you or withhold from you felt needs because you have everything you need in Christ’s all-sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Believer, know thyself if you would say “No” to people-pleasing.

6/3/2022 11:16:54 PM
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  • Tom Sugimura
    About Tom Sugimura
    Tom Sugimura is a pastor-writer, church planting coach, and professor of biblical counseling. He writes at, ministers the gospel at New Life Church, and hosts the Every Peoples Podcast. He and his wife cherish the moments as they raise their four kids in Southern California.