Woe to the Popular
Popularity opens the door to many temptations, especially for religious people. The admiring crowd with their personal compliments are powerful tools to reopen the old life of sin. Corrupt human nature longs to be the centre of attention, with the ability to influence, persuade, command or simply bathe in the glory of human approval. Whenever we take glory without passing it on to Christ, we put ourselves in His place – that is the danger-zone where Satan can tempt us that we are above our Maker, and therefore we can do whatever we like.
Jesus knew His disciples would find popularity hard to resist, and so He was really teaching them as He rebuked the hypocrisy of the religious leaders (Matthew 23:1-36). The nature of truth is to cause a reaction in sinful hearts. The right reaction is to repent and change; but mostly, people react by hardening their hearts and blaming the messenger (Matthew 14:3-5). On the other hand, those who simply affirm what will make sinners comfortable will be popular. Effectively, as they give permission to continue in rebellion against God, they lock the door to truth and throw away the key (Luke 11:52). But Jesus pointed out that such 'people-pleasers' were false prophets who join a long catalogue of others who take the glory away from God and the truth away from people.
So often, popularity is the trade-mark of those who bend, abuse, misuse or deny the full truth of God's Word. The apostles would therefore need to be alert if they became popular, not to be deceived into telling people what they wanted to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4), thereby abandoning the gospel of Christ. It is a particular temptation for church leaders when society’s values move away from what the Bible allows. They have to make choices that please God.
So, let us beware of the seduction of the popular vote and the attraction of applause. May Christian leaders be more concerned to handle God's Word faithfully, than how much the people like what they say. May believers in the workplace clearly explain their confidence in Bible truth (despite the risk of unpopularity) as well as sharing testimony and doing good works, so that their friends and colleagues may hear God speaking. False prophets say whatever will gain people’s approval; true prophets speak so that people know what God approves.
© Dr Paul Adams