It is common for all of us to seek approval for our actions. As children, we longed for the affirmation of our parents. As we grew older, we also valued the opinions of our friends, colleagues, and employers. At times, the esteem of others can claim such importance that it becomes our way to measure our worth as a person.
Paul said that he was not striving to obtain the approval of people. Some of his critics thought their criticisms could determine what he did. Yet these same people were praising themselves for their own opinions and behavior. They were seeking the approval of others, and they were receiving it.
Jesus said that those who seek to gain the approval of others “have their own reward” (Matt. 6:2-5). Paul, too, realized that achieving the praise of others is not difficult, but earning God’s approval is a far greater accomplishment. The affirmation “Well done!” that Jesus received from the Father became Paul’s goal as well (2 Tim. 2:3-5). Paul knew that self-approval is not hard to attain. Paul himself had once been pleased with his own life, until he came to realize that the righteousness he was so proud of was mere rubbish in the kingdom of God (Phil. 3:8). After his conversion, Paul understood that God’s evaluation of his actions was what mattered, not his own opinion of himself.
Whose opinion matters most to you? Have you become complacent, enjoying the approval of those around you? Have you become satisfied with your estimation of the way you are living? The commendation that matters most is the one that comes from God. The pleasure that your life gives to God should be your motivation to live righteously.