For 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. – Galatians 1:10
I like to make people happy. It comes naturally. I’ve never had to force myself to do it. That’s not to say that I’m always successful in making people happy (just ask my wife) but the desire is at least there. And it’s not that I’m altruistic either. Seeing other people happy actually makes me happy. I enjoy it. I don’t look at it like a chore or a burden.
I wish that I could stop right there. But as is the case with just about any other good desire we have as Christians, the desire to please people can be twisted in such a way that it leads us very far from Christ. In addition to his monetary reward, I imagine that Judas Iscariot was motivated to betray Jesus out of a desire to please the chief priests. King David probably had Uriah killed not simply to avoid getting caught, but because he knew what a demoralizing effect the news of his adultery would have had on the nation of Israel. He probably thought that he was doing everyone a favor by keeping things on the down-low. And then the Apostle Peter, we are told, “feared” the circumcision party. But what exactly was he afraid of? It’s tough to know for sure, but it seems very unlikely that he feared for his life. He was probably just afraid of upsetting them. Peter wanted to make the Jews happy. But at what expense?
It’s easy to see how the desire to please people can get you into trouble. I think the old Puritan, Richard Baxter, hits the nail on the head when he links this sin with the sin of idolatry:
And so the obeying man before God and against him, and the valuing the favour and approbation of man before or against the approbation of God, and the fearing of man's censure or displeasure more than God's, is an idolizing man, or setting him up in the place of God.
Keep this in mind as you seek to make others happy. Remember that God is the one before whom we stand or fall. He is one we should strive to please in all things. And that it is only by honoring him that we will ever be in a position to bring true and lasting happiness to the people around us.
If you are interested in learning more about this, check out this great book by Ed Welch.