Don’t Live For Others’ Expectations

“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” (Matthew 11:17)

You’ll never please everybody. You can run yourself ragged and never live up to everyone’s expectations.  Jesus realized this, and it is reflected in His statements in Matthew 11:16-19.  In the previous verses Jesus had been speaking about John the Baptist, who had sent a question to Him.  Jesus had told His listeners that John was greatest among those who had been born of women.  John evidently had not lived up to some people’s expectations of who he was supposed to be. But, Jesus indicated, living up to other people’s expectations is not what our life is really about.

He makes this very clear in these verses. He says that “this generation” in which they lived was like children who call out to other children, criticizing them because they didin’t “dance” or “mourn” when they directed them to. In other words, they didn’t live up to their expectations for behavior.  Jesus explained further that you can NEVER live up to some people’s expectations: in :18 He says that John didn’t eat or drink, so people said he had a demon. But in :19 Jesus said that He Himself DID eat and drink, so people called Him “a gluttonous man and a drunkard.”

In other words, what Jesus is saying here is that no matter WHAT they did, John & Jesus were not going to please everybody. Some of us need that lesson today.  You may be expending a great deal of physical and emotional energy trying to live up to someone’s idea of what you should be.  But you need to realize that there are people whom you will never please. If you live your life trying to live up to everyone’s expectations, you will never be happy — because you will NEVER satsify them all.

Instead, commit yourself to do your best to please GOD with your life, to the best of your understanding of what He wants you to do. As Jesus said at the end of this section in :19, “wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”  Do what you know GOD wants you to do, and don’t waste your life — and expend all your emotional energy and make yourself mad! — trying to live up to what others expect of you.  It is good to be accountable to people for certain things, but don’t base your peace on other people’s expectations. You will never be at peace if that is your measure — as Jesus indicates here. You will never live up to everyone’s expectations — and the good news is, you don’t have to. Please God, and be at peace with that.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog,, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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2 Responses to Don’t Live For Others’ Expectations

  1. Lynda Rich says:

    Shawn, thank you for this post! I really needed it today!

  2. Nadine Wilkinson says:

    powerful words

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