Once I was shopping at the grocery store. An eager four-year-old started to wander off from her mother. The mother spoke to her child in a calm but icy voice. She said something like this, “I knew it was a mistake to bring you shopping. If you don’t come here right now, I’ll never take you shopping again.” The little girl sadly turned back to her mother with her head down. She was being treated as her mother thought she deserved. Mom seemed pleased that her power play worked. Often this tactic does not work, but for this little girl, earning her mom’s approval was all that mattered. For her part, Mom had no idea of the devastating impact of her words and attitude upon her child. This little girl was living for the approval of her mother. As she grows older, she will likely seek to win the approval of other people. Her security will be connected to making other people like her. Mom may have thought that she was teaching her child to obey. In reality, she was teaching her daughter to become a slave to the desires of other people.
Living for the approval of others means that you live for something other than God. Psalm 103 teaches us that God does not treat us as our sins deserve. The gospel means that no one can “earn” God’s approval, except Christ. So, living for the approval of others only drives people away from the saving grace of God offered in the gospel.