The word generally translated in the New Testament as “pleasing,” or in some cases “acceptable,” is the Greek term euarestos (yoo-ar-es-tos), and it means exactly that: pleasing or acceptable (as that which pleases). However, when it comes being pleasing there are a few options. For instance, one may seek to:
- Please Themselves. Surely this is the most popular ‘pleasing’ option, but it quickly puts one at odds with Scripture. Rom.15:1-3 includes a prohibition against as much in v.1, and also adds that “even Christ did not please Himself” in v.3. Additionally, Phil.3:18-9 speaks of those “whose god is their appetite” as being “enemies of the cross of Christ” who “set their minds on earthly things.” Obviously, the wisdom of God revealed in these passages directly contradicts many mantras and most of the so-called “wisdom” of people these days.
- Please Others. This ‘pleasing’ option is a bit tricky biblically. On the one hand, passages such as Eph.6:6 and Col.3:22 clearly condemn being “men-pleasers” for slaves (and comparably for employees), and Gal.1:10 and 1Thess.2:4 likewise denounce preachers who would speak in such a way to “please men” rather than God. However on the other hand, in 1Cor.10:33 the apostle Paul said that he sought to “please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.” And to return to Rom.15:2 adds that we, as Christians, should “please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.” So pleasing others is not always a “bad” thing, provided that the activity doesn’t contradict Scripture and the motives are to spiritually edify and save them. Obviously, thoughtful discretion is here required since “God…examines our hearts,” 1Thess.2:4!
- Please God. With this third ‘pleasing’ option we can never go wrong, even if our actions displease others or ourselves, cf. Acts 4:19-20 and Acts 5:29! 2Cor.5:9 says that being “pleasing to God” ought to be our “ambition,” and Eph.5:10 adds that we should try to “learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” So, if we have the right ambition or goal coupled with the right effort/activity of consulting what God actually says pleases Him in His Word, and then do what pleases God instead of others or ourselves, we can’t go wrong!
But let’s add one more wrinkle to these things before we close. What if, rather than merely obligatorily doing what pleases God even if, or perhaps especially if, such displeases us (reread Jonah 1-4 introspectively), we DECIDE to be pleased with whatever pleases God? After all, isn’t that the essence of praying “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” Matt.6:10b? Wait, perhaps that’s why we don’t often include that phrase in our prayers anymore… we prefer that which pleases us OVER that which pleases God! Think about it, won’t you? Let’s be pleased to do what pleases God.