3 We don’t give anyone any reason to be offended about anything so that our ministry won’t be criticized. 4 Instead, we commend ourselves as ministers of God in every way. We did this with our great endurance through problems, disasters, and stressful situations. 5 We went through beatings, imprisonments, and riots. We experienced hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger. 6 We displayed purity, knowledge, patience, and generosity. We served with the Holy Spirit, genuine love, 7 telling the truth, and God’s power. We carried the weapons of righteousness in our right hand and our left hand. 8 We were treated with honor and dishonor and with verbal abuse and good evaluation. We were seen as both fake and real, 9 as unknown and well known, as dying—and look, we are alive! We were seen as punished but not killed, 10 as going through pain but always happy, as poor but making many rich, and as having nothing but owning everything.
Just because you don’t give people reasons to criticize you, that doesn’t mean you won’t be criticized. In fact, Paul kind of argues against his own point when he says, “we were treated with honor and dishonor…with verbal abuse and good evaluation.”
Paul attempted to make sure that his ministry operated above reproach. He worked side jobs rather than taking an offering for his preaching, in order to avoid the accusation that he was just in it for the money (Acts 18:3). Even while he was imprisoned, he made it his business to make friends with the guards and others in authority over him, converting some of them through his witness (Acts 16:25-34). He offered gifts of healing freely (Acts 19:11-12).
And yet, still people rioted in response to his preaching – particularly when it threatened their livelihoods (Acts 19:23-41). He was, by turns, beaten, flogged, and imprisoned. All this even though he tried not to “give anyone any reason to be offended about anything.”
The reality is that it’s impossible to live your life without criticism. “Haters gonna hate,” as they say. (Have you ever heard the ancient fable about the man, his son, and their donkey?) Our task is not to live our lives above the reproach of humans. That just won’t happen. Instead, our task is to live our lives in faithful service to God, so that we don’t disappoint the One whose opinion of us matters most of all.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Have you experienced a time when, despite your best efforts, you upset or offended people you cared about? How did you deal with it? Do you know someone going through this right now? Is there a word of encouragement you might offer based on your experience?
Prayer: God, you know that we try hard not to offend, that we always hope to give people cause to like rather than dislike us. Remind us today that we can cause ourselves much grief by failing to accept the fact that we cannot please everyone. Help us to make decisions today with your will, rather than the will of the crowd, in mind. Amen.