“How miserable for you when everybody says nice things about you, for that is exactly how their fathers treated the false prophets. (PHILLIPS)
This saying of Jesus can be easily misunderstood. We might mistakenly see it as an invitation to become unpopular, or to reject any “nice things” said about us or to us. But elsewhere in the Bible, we see followers of Jesus enjoying good reputations and being urged to be well regarded by those outside the faith.
The key to right understanding is Jesus’ reference to the false prophets of the Old Testament. They tended to say things or predict outcomes that would bring them favour from those in power. They said flattering and ultimately false things in order to keep their status and gain a receptive audience.
The problem is not that others may say nice things about us. We must not dismiss genuine affirmation from others. We ought to be people who are well regarded and respected. The issue is whether a desire for such regard and respect clashes with our desire to do things Jesus’ way. Does being popular matter more than doing or saying the godly thing? Is my life being distorted by trying to please everyone to bolster my self esteem?
Jesus is our best model. He didn’t cultivate popularity; he didn’t aim to draw a big crowd. He didn’t just tell people what they wanted to hear. But he did act with love and grace to people, some of whom responded positively to him.
Nothing wrong with having nice things said about you, as long as we remember that this is not our chief aim in life.