The following story has been around for many years. I do not know who the original author is. It well illustrates what most of us have experienced from time to time. You simply cannot please everyone. It is not reasonable to try. Our time and energy are best spent in trying to do what is right. If some critic can help us to better understand what is right, then it is reasonable to follow such suggestions. But changing what we are doing or not doing to try to please unfair critics is absolutely futile.
A man and his grandson went on a journey, walking and leading a donkey. Soon they met a passerby who said, “How foolish for both of you to be walking. One should be riding the donkey.” So the man put his grandson on the animal. The next person they met frowned and said, “How dreadful for a strong boy to be riding while an old man walks.” So the boy climbed off the donkey and his grandfather climbed on. The next traveler down the road said, “I just can’t believe that a grown man would ride and make a poor little boy walk.” So the man pulled the little boy up and they rode on together. This seemed to be the solution, until they met the next fellow who cried out, “I never thought I would see anything so cruel in all my life — two intelligent human beings riding one poor defenseless donkey.” Down the road a piece, they met a couple of men traveling together. When they passed, one said to the other, “Did you ever see tow dummies carrying a donkey before?”
Soon after I began preaching I was confronted by a critic who believed that there was something wrong with preparing notes for sermons. At the time I was using extensive outlines in the pulpit that I had prepared in my studies during the week. The critic said, “A real preacher can stand up and preach a sermon on any subject in the Bible right now without using notes!” Over time I developed the practice of using fewer and fewer notes while preaching expository sermons over passages of scripture. I eventually got a wide margin Bible and now do most of my preaching from the text of the Bible and the notes that I have made in the margin. This takes more work in the study but it seems to be the most effective way to preach the word of God for me at this time. I was not surprised to hear another critic point out that “real preaching cannot be done from a few notes scribbled in the margin of a Bible.”
Such criticism comes from a variety of sources. Job’s “friends” came to him without knowledge of what was actually going on and made criticisms concerning things about which they were ignorant. They could have come with open minds. They could have listened and learned. Instead they came attempting to instruct Job.
The Sadducees were a proud people in Matthew 22 where it is recorded that they came to Jesus attempting to “show Him up”. Jesus “put them to silence” (verse 22). Before doing so the showed them where they had gone wrong; “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (verse 29). Even though their criticism was put forth in the form of a question, it was a loaded question that blew up in their faces. They should have learned from the reasonable answer to their question. Instead, it appears that they went quietly back to looking for opportunities to bring Jesus down a peg or two.
In Joshua 22 we read of an incident in which the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh went back to the other side of Jordan. They built an alter to God. Their brethren in Israel heard about it and assumed that it was an altar to an idol. Based upon their assumption they prepared to go to battle against them and kill them. According to verse 16 the whole congregation believed it! All of Israel was stirred up and “red-hot mad” because they had failed to investigate before acting. They nearly killed faithful brethren because of unfair criticism.
Before you criticize ask questions and learn facts. If you must criticize try to help and not hurt. Look first at yourself. Some of the most bitter criticism seems to come from those who have the least knowledge of and interest in spiritual things.
Let us also be prepared to at least hear those criticisms from brethren with open Bibles and loving spirits. We should be ready and willing to repent if we have done wrong (Psalm 51).