The Sin Of Pandering

“…do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ,” (Galatians 1:10).

Paul wrote these words in a context that had one premise: There is only one gospel! (See also, 1 Tim. 1:3). He was disturbed that some in Galatia had turned away from the truth of the gospel of Christ, “to a different gospel.” The message they had defected to was “a different gospel” that involved perverting the real gospel (see verse 7). Paul was not only disturbed that members of churches in Galatia had turned to false doctrine, it was also his
purpose to speak plainly in exposure of those who brought this message: “…if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed,” (Gal. 1:9). It is at this point Paul said: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or, do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I could not be a servant of Christ,” (Gal. 1:10).

One dimension of apostasy is, seeking to please men; in modern vernacular, pandering (“catering to”) {* See footnote on the use of the term}.

When we seek the favor of men above or at the expense of the favor of God, we betray any claim to faith in God. It is proper to commend good people (Col. 4:7-15). There is no issue when we act toward others out of appreciation, courtesy and even honor (Romans 13:7). We can praise men, as Paul praised Timothy and Epaphroditus in Philippians two. We can love and serve one another (Gal. 5:13). In the contextual sense intended by the
apostle, we should follow his example to please all men (1 Cor. 10:33). The problem is, seeking the favor of men equal with or above the favor of God.

This sin of pandering is illustrated by the Jewish rulers who “believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,” (Jno. 12:42,43). There can be no doubt, this is the very thing Jesus spoke about when He said: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets,” (Lk. 6:26). One dimension of apostasy is, forsaking God to have the praise of men. Paul recognized this as active in the defection of some in Galatia, and confesses his own guilt in the matter previous to his conversion (“…if I still pleased men…”). When we place ourselves under the influence of pleasing men, it is equivalent to submitting to human authority!

“The friendship of men would be dearly bought at the cost of the Lord’s friendship. ‘No man can serve two masters.’ To Christ he owes obedience, reverence, diligence, faithfulness; for he bore the ‘brands of his slavery.’ Therefore his subjection to him implied the rejection of all human authority in matters of faith.” (Pulpit Commentary, Gal. 1:10)

Mark this well in Galatians 1:10 – Pandering is incompatible with the activity of faith in Christ! “…If I still pleased men, I could not be a servant of Christ.” We cannot pander to human praise, and enjoy divine favor. The motives are incapable of harmony.

Every Christian must guard his heart against anything that is part of apostasy. Anything that is part of the process of apostasy, every Christian must watch for and guard against. When we seek the favor of men with such intensity, we are willing to compromise our relationship with God – the sin is present and must be forsaken in order to step back in the light of fellowship with Deity.

1. When we become a parrot of our favorite preacher, we are involved in this. Read the first four chapters of First Corinthians. It is about loyalty to  men instead of God. As already granted, love and appreciation for someone is proper. Putting your mind in submission to your favorite preacher serves no godly purpose, puts you in peril to the error of another, fosters a religious party and betrays your allegiance to God. “Test the spirits,” ought to be applied to every religious preacher/teacher/writer without personal favoritism (1 Jno. 4:1; see also Acts 17:11). Simply repeating what your favorite preacher says is not a function of faith; it is pandering, and may also implicate the guilty one is laziness. (One can certainly quote another; but to let the teachings of another become your creed to please them is the sin of which I speak.)

2. When a preacher speaks and writes for the purpose of gaining the praise of his colleagues, he is pandering. Understand, as granted above, there is no inherent evil in praising or being praised (assuming biblical context). The sin is, preaching motivated by the desire for human applause! The content of the preaching may be perfectly in keeping with the Scriptures, and may fall on the hearts of good and honest hearers. The present point goes to motive. Pandering occurs first in the heart. Whether the preacher/writer is presenting truth or not – the desire for human applause constitutes the immature pandering and advances human pride and party. (While Paul rejoiced in the message, he gave no approval of ill-motivated preachers, see Phil. 1:12-18).

3. When elders play to the desires of men rather than insist upon the will of God, pandering has corrupted them. Elders may be under pressure to be governed by the flock; guided and improperly influenced by the wants and wishes of the people, rather than the singular will of God. Formally or informally, some leaders of this sort “poll the members” before doing anything. Faithful elders must be completely committed to “holding fast the faithful word” regardless of contrary winds of doctrine (Titus 1:9).

4. When members remain silent about sin, false teaching, unscriptural practice, lest they displease someone – they serve men, leaving Christ. I understand the challenge of knowing exactly when to speak up and when to leave, but the answer is not “never.” To abdicate loyalty to the New Testament pattern, for fear of displeasing men is clearly the sin of pandering and compromise. You cannot just surrender to the human agendas which find their way into the work you are a part of! If the congregation you are a member of ceases to imitate the characteristics of the New Testament pattern for local churches, silent submission will (a) not solve the problem, (b) will contribute to the loss of souls, and (c) will become your own condemnation. The duty is: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them,” (Eph. 5:11).

5. When parents refuse to stand against sin, for fear of their children’s reaction, the affection of human relationship has supplanted loyalty to God. The temptation the devil dispatches to parents of sinful children is: “Let your affection for your children overrule your regard for the Scriptures.” This is another version of pandering; neglecting the truth of God for the sake of human relationship. (It is a subtle form of child abuse – to neglect spiritual
values in order to have emotional peace. And in the end, there is never any peace in forsaking divine truth! Likewise, the practice of religion merely to keep a family tradition alive does not reflect the depth of personal commitment God demands.)

These several applications do not detail every possible form of pandering. My hope is, these examples will bring the sin to our attention. Once your focus is misplaced in the direction of human pleasure, you suffer a loss of divine pleasure. Albert Barnes stated the matter well. “It follows that if people would become Christians, they must cease to make it their object to please people. They must be willing to be met with contempt and a frown; they must be willing to be persecuted and despised; they must he willing to lay aside all hope of the praise and the flattery of people, and be content with an honest effort to please God.” (Barnes, Gal. 1:10)

“Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men,” (2 Cor. 5:11). “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts,” (1 Thess. 2:4).

* The term “pandering” is used throughout this article in the modern sense of catering to and serving the desires of others. In contemporary journalistic commentary this expression is commonly used: “pandering to the electorate, pandering to the left/right, south, corporate interests, public opinion,” etc. There is religious pandering to the masses; cultural pandering to a human standard of correctness; media pandering to the youth. I’m using the expression in this contemporary sense, not in the older, legal sense of brokering lewd services.

By Warren E. Berkley
Final Page
From Expository Files 10.2, February, 2003

  • August 17, 2020