all things to all men; all things to all people

trying to please everyone
—In order to be elected, he said whatever the voters wanted to hear and tried to become all things to all people.

While often used today as a criticism, all things to all people is used in the Bible in a positive way. Paul writes,

For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people [all things to all men], so that by all means I may save some. (1 Corinthians 9:19-22)

A few verses later, Paul compares himself to a serious athlete in training—not like a runner who has no direction or a boxer who only swings his fists at nothing: 

So I do not run uncertainly or box like one who hits only air [beateth the air]. (1 Corinthians 9:26)

Someone who “works hard without a purpose or without accomplishing anything” is therefore said to “beat the air.”

Comments are closed.
  • All scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://bible.org. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

    Scripture in brackets is from the King James Bible.

  • Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed by Craig Thompson under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

    Any reproduction of this content using passages from the NET Bible must follow NET Bible's copyright policy for use of those passages.

    For information on creating translations of Putting Words in Our Mouths, please go here.

  • Visit My Blog: Clearing Customs

    Miriam Beard on Travel: A Change in the Ideas of Living

    I’ve often wondered how a single phrase finds its way from being buried in a memoir or novel to being plucked out as a stand-on-its-own “quotation.” Of course, the creator of the thought is important, but so is the one who finds it and decides it’s worthy of display on its own. “Next to the […]

    Back Away from That Keyboard: These Books for Cross-Cultural Workers Should Remain Unwritten [—at A Life Overseas]

    Seen any good best-of-the-year book lists lately? I have, but this isn’t one of them. Instead, I’ve created a much different kind of list. First, it is a collection of book titles—for cross-cultural workers—but there aren’t real books to go with the names. Second, these titles aren’t any kind of best, and probably shouldn’t even make it […]