In 1 Corinthians 10:33, several English translations say that Paul tried ‘to please everybody’. The original words do not include a word for ‘try’.
We know that Paul did not please everyone. It would not even be right for a Christian to try to do that. A Christian speaks the truth about God, whether people approve or not. 2 Corinthians 11:23-26 reminds us that many people opposed Paul in a very cruel manner.
Our problem is the use of the word ‘please’ in the translation. It is a reasonable translation of the original word but it clearly does not express Paul’s meaning. Paul did not care about what other people thought about him. He only wanted to please God. He explains in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 that he was very careful not to do anything to impress anyone.
Really, Paul means that he acted for the benefit of everyone else, and not for his own benefit. His desire always was that God would save people. That is, that God would give them a right relationship with himself.
So, Paul could not allow selfish desires to enter his thoughts. He could not please himself. He could not just do whatever he wanted.
Therefore, Paul would not do anything that made it harder for any person to trust God. He had that same attitude towards everyone, whether they were already Christians or not. And he had the same attitude towards everyone, whether they belonged to the same nation as him (the Jews), or not (for example, the Greeks).
He urged all Christians to have a similar attitude.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.