Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.…
1. Undoubtedly this duty is incumbent on all — "every man"; neighbour, too, means every other man. Only as Paul says elsewhere, "If it be possible as much as lieth in you live peaceably with all men," so we are to please all men if possible. But strictly speaking it is not; but if we use our utmost diligence, let the event be what it may, we have done our duty.
2. The apostle limits this direction, otherwise it would be attended with mischievous consequences. We are to please them for their good; not barely for the sake of pleasing them or ourselves, much less to their hurt; nor for their temporal good merely, but for their edification, so as to conduce to their spiritual and eternal good. We may do this —
I. BY REMOVING HINDRANCES. We must avoid everything which tends to displease wise and good men.
1. Now cruelty, hatred, malice, etc., are displeasing, and so is that temper so prevalent in common life — ill-nature. We must, then, avoid these, and whatever resembles them, as sourness, sternness, sullenness on the one hand; peevishness and fretfulness on the other.
2. Next to these nothing is more disgustful than pride and haughtiness issuing in an assuming, arrogant, overbearing behaviour. Even great learning and shining talents will not make amends for this.
3. Almost as disgustful is a passionate temper and behaviour. Hence passionate men have seldom many friends.
4. We must "put away all lying." Addison said, "Of all vices this has never found an apologist"; but he wrote before Lord Chesterfield, whose apology for it is the best that could be made for so bad a cause. As lying can never be commendable, so neither can it be pleasing.
5. But is not flattery a species of lying, and has it not been regarded in all ages as a means of pleasing? Yes, flattery is pleasing for a while, but when the mask drops off we are pleased no longer. If a man continues to flatter after his insincerity is discovered it is disgusting.
6. Dissimulation is displeasing, and guile, subtlety, cunning, and the whole art of deceiving. Even those who practise it most are not pleased with it in others, nor fond of conversing with those who practise it on themselves.
II. BY USING THE MEANS THAT DIRECTLY TEND TO THIS END. Only remember that there are those whom we cannot expect to please. It is now as when our Lord said, "The men of this generation are like unto children sitting in the market-place," etc. But leaving these froward ones to themselves, we may hope to please others in the following way.
1. Let love not visit you as a transient guest, but be the constant temper of your soul. Let it pant in your heart, sparkle in your eyes, shine on all your actions, and speak with your tongue.
2. Study to be lowly in heart. "Be clothed with humility." Reject the favourite maxim of the old heathen, "The more you value yourself the more others will value you." Not So, Both God and man "resist the proud."
3. Pray that you may be meek. Labour to be of a calm, dispassionate temper; gentle to all men, pitiful, generous.
4. Be courteous to all, high or low, good or bad. Addison's definition of politeness is "a constant desire of pleasing all men, appearing through the whole conversation." I have seen as real courtesy in an Irish cabin as could be found in St. James's or the Louvre.
5. What is the root of that desire to please which we call courtesy? The same apostle that teaches it teaches us to honour all men, and the Master teaches us to love all men. Join all these together, and what will be the effect? When a poor wretch cries to me for an alms, I look and see him covered in rags. But through these I see an immortal spirit redeemed by Christ's blood. The courtesy, therefore, which I feel and show toward him is a mixture of the honour and love which I bear to the offspring of God, the purchase of Christ, the candidate for immortality.
6. Take all proper opportunities of declaring to others the affection you really feel for them. This may be done in such a manner as is not liable to the imputation of flattery; and experience shows that honest men are pleased by this.
7. Speak to all men the very truth in your heart. In all company and on all occasions be a man of veracity. "In simplicity and godly sincerity," etc. — "an Israelite indeed."
8. To sum up all: if you would please men, please God.
(John Wesley, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.