Dealing With Critics – and Silence

Most people who are busy seeking to do the work of the Kingdom by God’s grace will know that it is often a thankless task. Either you will hear little if any praise from other believers, or if you do hear from them, it will often be just to criticise you.

No wonder so many Christian leaders and activists do not last the distance! With friends like that, who needs enemies? With so little positive feedback, so much deafening silence, and so much criticism, it can be very hard indeed to want to keep going.

I guess I am writing this for at least two reasons: I just read a gospel passage on this very issue, and also because it has been one of those days. You know the ones; you spend many hours trying to help someone, dealing with their questions, and helping them with their problems over a period of time, only to be told to get lost after all your efforts!

But we of course must keep going. And the reason we do so is because Jesus kept going – for us. And given what a thankless and undeserving mob we are, that is far more amazing. How could he go all the way to the bitter end, and even die a horrible death on a cross, when most folks could not give a rip about him or actively hated him and wanted him dead?

And of course Jesus knows all about critics and silence. He had plenty of people chewing him out all the time, but few who praised and thanked him. And often he was met with stony silence. We have a perfect illustration of this in the account of the ten lepers. In this familiar passage as found in Luke 17:11-19 we see that Jesus got a very poor gratitude response:

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Wow, ten healed and only one returns to give thanks. So a 90 per cent failure rate in terms of even an acknowledgement from those just healed. And this one was a foreigner, not even a Jew. So God’s own people were happy to accept the benefits of Jesus but not bother to even give him a word of thanks.

Darrell Bock remarks, “The portrait of Jesus’ compassion, even in the midst of rejection, is a crucial theme here. Jesus continues to minister to any who reach out to him. None is turned away. When people cry out for pity, Jesus offers it. God is not an ogre who hoards his compassion and needs persuading to exercise it. All he asks is that we approach him humbly and on his terms, recognizing that he is ready to help.

“Also significant in this story is the example of who is helped. Jesus reaches out to those who are regarded as outsiders. He touches especially those whom others have often given up on. Similarly, our ministry needs to share the scope of audience that Jesus’ ministry had.”

While this sad story is not meant to be a precise template for our own experiences, it can nonetheless serve as a broad grid by which to understand and assess our own ministry. To say that 90 per cent of those you minister to, share with, and seek to bless will likely not even say a word, let alone offer you any thanks, sounds about right.

For every person who gets back to you with a word of praise, there will likely be nine others who will say nothing, or will have something to complain about. That just seems to be the way it goes in Christian work. If it was true for Jesus, why would we expect it to be any less true for us?

We are not above our master, and if he took in more criticism and silence than praise, well, then that will almost certainly be our lot as well. How can we expect any less? If the most gracious and loving man to ever walk the planet got such poor treatment, what makes us think we are going to get any better?

But this is not just about those in ministry – both Jesus and his followers – who work much but get thanked little. It is also about a general attitude of ingratitude that most people have. Very few have a heart filled with thanks for what God has done. As Philip Graham Ryken comments,

“When we watch nine people out of ten forget to thank Jesus, we are witnessing a microcosm of humanity. Is any sin more characteristic of our fallen race than ingratitude? ‘Although they knew God,’ Paul writes of depraved humanity, ‘they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him’ (Rom. 1:21). Elsewhere he goes so far as to identify ingratitude as one of the prevailing sins of godlessness in the last days (see 2 Tim. 3:1-2). We are inclined to think of ingratitude as a relatively minor sin, but in fact it is one of the worst sins in the bible.

“Ingratitude is a way of saying that God owes us whatever he gives us, and that we owe Him nothing in return. Thus it is a complete reversal of our real position before God, namely, that He owes us nothing and we owe Him everything. Ingratitude is also a direct assault on God’s glory. When we do not thank God for his blessings, we are refusing to give him the praise that he rightly deserves.”

So let us be prepared for a lack of thanksgiving in any work we do for the Kingdom. Most people will not even bother to say thanks. But let us at the same time never cease to give thanks to our Lord who made our ministry for him possible in the first place.

[1097 words]

21 Replies to “Dealing With Critics – and Silence”

  1. Thank you Bill, your prolific writing skills and willingness to research and share about all these topics are very much appreciated and a blessing to us all.
    Thanks again Bill.
    Sid Avery

  2. I want to say thank YOU… to Bill who tirelessly speaks the truth and does all the research to wake us up and make us think.

    I’m guilty of ingratitude especially to God.

    Jo Deller

  3. That part of the Gospel was part of the Church reading s last week. In the sermon, if we are healed as was the case of these lepers, who because of their affliction, naturally the first thing they would want to do when realizing they were healed is to go and see family members and so on. Considering the affliction they had and being ostracized from the rest of society, we can all relate to this. Could we even begin to imagine this? The one who returned to Jesus realized he needed to thank him first as the one who healed him, before going back to his family.

    Carl Strehlow

  4. Bill, you have written a number of devotional articles like this one. If you can get 365 of them together it might be time for a devotional book. Like “My Utmost for His Highest”. I would buy it.

    Rodney Gynther

  5. Hi Bill,

    Let me take this opportunity to say that I greatly value your ministry. The reason I don’t leave as many comments as I used to is because I’ve become so busy with my own ministries; but I still read everything you write.

    God bless,

    Mansel Rogerson

  6. Bill:
    You have captured so much in this that is often on my heart as well. I hope I am as grateful before God as I should be, because he has done so very much for me. Yet I am astounded at how often Christians dwell in self-pity and have an entitlement mentality about the Lord’s blessings. And yes, then there’s that unsolicited criticism thing! I am incredibly grateful for the believers who are encouragers God has put in my life. They keep me going.
    Linda Harvey

  7. Bill
    You are a champ and my family continue to remember you and your ministry in our prayers…christian leaders like you need all the prayers and support from the not so prominent christians like me… You are using your gifts the way God has intended…Godbless
    Pita lino

  8. Highly value your contribution through “culture watch” and read often. Also you and your comments pop up in my prayers at times. I’m sure many others are supporting your efforts as your messages invariably hit the spot. Don’t know any similar Christian ministry which covers such a broad spectrum of life and culture. Yours is a clarion call to the battle and we hear you and appreciate your efforts. Trust the eyes are standing up to the strain.
    God bless, Elaine Kuiri

  9. Bill we thank you too …. couldn’t have said it any better than Sid Avery in the 1st comment. We value your courage, tireless efforts and the research you undertake in order to bring truth to bear on so many issues today.

    Incredibly, the exact same thoughts you share above have also been much on our minds of late. An excellent little book entitled “Courageous Teens” by Michael Catt (purchased for our grandson) includes a comment: ‘critics are a dime a dozen …. and they breed’!

    As one commenter wisely reminds us and so we pray, “Dear Lord, please help us to always say thanks, firstly to You and in showing gratitude to our brothers and sisters as well.”

    Shalom and our thanks from Ron and Barbara Pirie.

  10. Indeed thanks Bill, to you and Des, Phil and Graham.

    I am in the privileged position of preparing and leading the public prayers in our church each Sunday.

    I have a structure within which I develop the prayer points, and Thanksgiving comes first. There is never a shortage of bad news in the world, or problems in the church to pray about, but I find myself going back to the Word to ensure that our Thanks are firmly grounded, and given the correct priority.

    Thanks for the reminders.

    John Angelico

  11. Stay the distance, Bill! Many Christians have been encouraged by your insight, wisdom, patience, persistence and love throughout a ‘public’ ministry over many years.
    When you put on your full armour of a God, it must be Teflon coated to keep all the muck from sticking. Remember that in one way the attacks are a backhanded compliment. If you weren’t effectively doing the work of God, they wouldn’t bother.
    The light of Truth shines through your epistles and the workers of darkness can’t stand the light.
    A warm thank you to you and your family.

    Mike Evans

  12. I’m adding my thanks for your faithful ministry Bill. I always read your comments. We all need encouragement from others even if we hear it directly from the Lord Himself, Well done good and faithful servant!

    Graham Lawn

  13. I was wondering how the Pro Homosexual lobby deals with gay people who are vehemently apposed to gay marriage for various reasons including some of the reasons Christians cite ( yes, I was surprised as well) ? Do they call them bigots too?

    Jo Deller

  14. God bless your ministry Bill with strength, inspiration, and much fruit. Thank you for ministering to me over the years.

    Keith Lewis

  15. Bill, I`m sure you know I appreciate your articles, but how can I not add again my thanks to you for your encouragement. Thanks.

    Johannes Archer

  16. Bill, You are “the voice of reason” in a world that seldom (if ever) makes sense.

    THANK YOU, and MAY GOD RICHLY BLESS YOU for your efforts. 🙂

  17. Thank you Bill, for your articles, your comments, your book reviews, your ‘snide remarks’ which so line up with mine. Love your fight for the Lord. Keep it up. Love your quirky wishing for the biggest library in the world and I think I know what job the Lord has got ready for you when you get to Heaven, and it will be the biggest library you have ever seen. It will include all the ‘hidden’ books all over the world, the books never published etc.
    So keep it up Bill.
    As for people. Think of Jesus, He was preaching to a crowd of over 5000, and when He told them about the blood and the flesh they all went home except for the 12! And here they thought He was worth walking with Him.

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