Popularity, Good or Peril?

In the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus, the word for “popularity” finds its synonyms as “preferred, favorite, favored, popular, well-liked, well-known, famous, leading, noted, prominent.”

When people excel in what they do, they normally get recognition for it and can become popular. Sometimes popularity comes without any real good work and depends on who you know.  The temptation of popularity is that it comes with fame and can be perilous.  Some people want to reach as many people as possible.

Popularity comes and goes, Michael Hyatt quoted former president George Bush, saying: “Chasing popularity, he noted, is like chasing a vapor. It is here today and gone tomorrow. Instead, you have to make decisions based on principle and let the chips fall where they may.” He recommends to rather ignore public opinion when it opposes your principles.

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Popularity is a theme in the Bible, which appears quite often. The popularity of David rose as he became king (2 Samuel 3:36). David recognised that his son, Absalom became popular among the people (2 Samuel 15:1–6) and how David feared Absalom’s popularity (2 Samuel 15:13–14). David tactically went out of Jerusalem because his son, Absalom organised a revolt against his dad.  David lost popularity. David and some of the people who supported him went to a town (Mahanaim) east of the Jordan River. Absalom died in the war against his dad’s army.  David mourns his son’s death and then returns to Jerusalem. After the rebellion collapses the people reflected upon all the good things David had done for the country and decide they want him to return as king (2 Samuel 19:9-15). When David hears about this sentiment, he sends word to his followers to see how they feel. David did everything he could to be popular again and created peace.  Just a few days before these people supported the rebel (Absalom), now they wanted David back as their king.  Does this sound familiar?

The Pharisees sought the popularity of the crowds (John 12:42–43) and so did many in the Bible. When Jesus’ popularity sky-rocketed because of the healing od many sick people. Healing increased Jesus’ popularity (Mark 3:7–10). Jesus eschewed popularity. When healing people he ordered them not to publicise it (Luke 5:12–14; Matthew 8:4). Jesus’ style was not to be popular, but rather focused on deeper goals, like mobilizing a handful of people who could make a difference in future. Jesus’ leadership strategy worked well. Within a generation, His followers turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6) and still do.

To focus on a few people who can make a difference with a few, may have the same results as Jesus had with the 12 disciples. It is not about popularity, but rather Godly values.

Godly people rather give others the credit and avoid the peril of popularity. They make the choice to rather be effective and work in obscurity.

People are sometimes fickle. To follow at all cost what is popular and what people want may be very attractive.  But there must be a higher moral code to follow than what is popular in the eyes of the majority. When we follow the moral code of the Word of God, it will help us to avoid being swayed by popular demand and opinions of the majority and stick with the will of God.