What will Everyone Think?
By: Elizabeth L. Creecy
“Until we care more about what God thinks than what other people think we are never truly free.”
But... um… What will everyone think?
How many times has that question stopped you or delayed you from doing the Father’s will in your life?
How many times have you allowed the fear of social stigma, gossip, or what-ifs to interfere with God’s plans for your life?
It’s a common question that can quickly run through anyone’s mind, especially if they struggle with Fear of man, where you make humans your gods.
Did you know Joseph also struggled with this same question? Imagine what would have changed if Joseph, Mary’s husband, and Jesus’ stepfather, cared more about what others thought than God!
Matthew 1:18 tells us that Mary was Jesus’ mother. Still, Joseph was not his dad (Matt. 1:16), and Joseph needed an explanation for such a reality. To understand this truth, it’s important you first understand the traditions involved in an ancient Jewish marriage. As marriage back then was a bit different than how it is today.
Two families would agree to union and negotiate the marriage, including the price for the bride, which the bride’s father would pay. Next, an announcement was made. Then the couple would pledge to one another, similar to an engagement but more binding and serious than how we see engagements in today’s world. The only way a couple could break the pledge was through death or divorce. If you are wondering, at this point in the marriage tradition, sex was not permitted yet. Now, the pledge or “engagement” would last a year, but the couple would live with their parents separately. The waiting period demonstrated the bride’s purity. If the bride were found pregnant during this period, the marriage would be annulled. Otherwise, they would marry and live together.
Did you ever consider the scandal of Mary's apparent unfaithfulness created for Joseph?
Even though that was not the case, let’s look at Matthew 1:18 NKJV:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit (underline added).
Note that this verse says, “she was found with child,” this indicates that Mary may not have told Joseph immediately but waited until her pregnancy was visible. Now the writer, Matthew, continues in this verse, removing any doubt of Mary’s purity. Matthew explains that Mary was pregnant through the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit acted on God’s initiative (Gen. 1:2). Luke 1:26-38 also speaks of this divine initiative in Mary’s conception.
Matthew 1:19 NKJV says, Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
Joseph thought the only thing he could do was leave Mary. However, God often shows us we have more options than we may consider or even see. At this point, he did not know what Mary knew. The angel had yet to appear to Joseph. He planned to divorce her or quietly dismiss her, but God helped Joseph make the best decision.
Do you seek God's wisdom before you move?
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20 NKJV).
Dreams can function as a way to convey God’s message to people. The angel who appeared to Joseph was one of God’s messengers sent to correct Joseph in dealing with Mary. Notice the angel called Joseph “the son of David,” which signified Joseph’s role in this divine event. The angel explained he was to take Mary as his wife, for the child was to be in the royal line of David. The only way for this to be established was through Joseph. The angel encouraged Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, nor of the social repercussions. The angel even reassured Joseph, confirming that Mary had not committed a sin but explained that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The angel explained to Joseph the prophecy that would be fulfilled and what to name the child.
When Joseph woke up, verse 24 tells us he did exactly what the angel of the Lord commanded.
Joseph had been faced with a difficult choice after discovering Mary was pregnant. What do you do when you are faced with a difficult choice?
He knew taking Mary as his wife could be potentially humiliating.
Please take a second and put yourself in his shoes and consider the Jewish tradition of marriage as well. Can you imagine the persecution that he potentially was going to receive?
Most people would be concerned about what others were going to say. However, Joseph chose to obey the angel’s command to marry her. Joseph didn’t hesitate to follow God’s instructions once the angel came. The decision no longer became difficult when Joseph chose to obey God. His decision revealed four admirable qualities:
- Righteousness (1:19)
- Discretion & sensitivity (1:19)
- Responsiveness to God (1:24)
- Self-discipline (1:25)
Joseph broke tradition went against the world’s ways, and followed God’s way. He took Mary as his wife, even though she was pregnant and the customary 1-year waiting period had not passed. Joseph chose not to be afraid of the social stigma, gossip, what if’s, and persecution. He decided to follow God’s command in marrying Mary and caring for her in pregnancy.
What is God asking you to do that goes against social norms?
Are you going to choose to obey and trust God or choose to find favor in the world?
It can be terrifying to step out in faith and do what God is asking you to do, especially when it goes against the world’s standards. It can be even more terrifying and confusing when you do not know or fully understand God’s plan. Sometimes God will reveal all of it, and other times, He will only tell you the next step in His plan. However, God’s ways are typically different and even opposite of the worlds. Perhaps people will judge you, but honestly – who cares? Aren’t people going to judge you regardless of what you do? Besides, people who are judging you do not typically have the knowledge, direction, tasks, or understanding that you do. Are you really going to let another human stop you from doing God’s will for your life?
Now maybe you are not having an angel appear to you in a dream telling you precisely what to do. Nonetheless, you know when God is asking you to do something. When you know, you know! Am I right?
Yes, sometimes, it can be a bit more confusing and unclear. In those moments, do you continue seeking God’s wisdom and understanding, or do you do what the world tells you to do?
What God is asking you to do will make sense, at some point, and will be for the kingdom of God’s benefit. However, it may not make sense to others for some time. That’s okay. Sometimes the best thing we can say to people who don’t understand is nothing. It’s not your job to convince someone what God has told you. It’s between you and God. Your job is to be faithful and to move. The best question you can ask yourself is not what will they think, but what does God want me to do, and when do I need to do it?!
PRAYER: Father God, help me only to do what You want me to do. I know sometimes I care about what others think of me, but I don’t want to be that way. Father, help me to only care about what You think. Help me to see myself and others as You see them. Thank You for Your love and kindness. Thank You for never giving up on me and always redirecting me to Your will. I pray that You continue to raise me up to be bold like Joseph, meek like Moses, and courageous like David, and loving like Jesus. Thank You for all You do for me. In Jesus’ name, amen.