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

    God’s Speed: Slowing Down, Listening, and Learning

    Matt Canlis, an Anglican pastor, has some good friends who appear with him in the video Godspeed. Some are rather famous: Eugene Peterson and N. T. Wright (whom he calls “Tom”). Others are not so well known, at least not outside Aberdeenshire, Scotland: Alan Torrance (with whom he started a “wee kinda group of men” […]

    The Origins of “Culture Shock,” Part 2

    In Part 1 of my discussion of culture shock, I examined the genesis of the phrase. In this follow-up post, I’d like to take a look at what seems to be Kalervo Oberg’s extreme dependence on Cora Du Bois for his views on adapting to a new culture. A copy of Oberg’s “Culture Shock,” spoken […]