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Understand Your Critic’s Method

What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore [the temple] for themselves?
–Nehemiah 4:2

In order to discern the cause of criticism you are facing, not only do you need to know your critic’s motive, but you need to understand his method. First of all, your critic will try to attack you personally. He will find some weakness in you and ridicule it. Did you ever have a cruel nickname bestowed upon you as a child, maybe something based on your physical appearance? There was probably a kernel of truth in that nickname that was greatly exaggerated. That is what ridicule is. Many of us cannot handle ridicule. Sanballat knew that, so he attacked the Jews personally. He said in Nehemiah 4:2, “What are these feeble Jews doing?” That word “feeble” means “withered, miserable, wretched.” There was a kernel of truth in that. These poor exiles were hungry. They were weak. They had been back in the land a hundred years and had not been able to rebuild the wall, so Sanballat used that to attack them personally.

Not only does a critic attack you, but he will also try to discredit your goal. In verse 2, Sanballat added, “Are they going to restore [the temple] for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish it in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?” Sanballat was attacking the goal by exaggerating the challenges the Israelites faced. Look at how Tobiah joined in: “Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, ‘Even what they are building–if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!’” (v. 3). Did you notice where was Tobiah standing? He was standing right next to Sanballat. Critics attract other critics. When I first started pastoring, there were people who would come into my office and say, “Pastor, do you realize everybody in the church is upset about this or that?” I did not know better, so I would get all nervous, and I would call the chairman of the deacons. He would say, “Pastor, I have not heard that. Nobody I know is upset.” Finally, it dawned on me. The critics really believed that everybody was upset. They had surrounded themselves with other critics, and because of that, they had a distorted view of reality. Here is a truth to remember: if you happen to be one of those people to whom everybody comes to share their gripes and displeasure, maybe they sense a kindred spirit in you. That was Tobiah and Sanballat. They had the same spirit.

Finally, if the critic cannot succeed in attacking your goal, he will attack your motive. In Nehemiah 6:6, Tobiah and Sanballat concluded the only reason Nehemiah was building this wall was to make a name for himself. It never occurred to them that Nehemiah’s motive was the glory of God. Do you know why? Because that was not their motive in life. If you find yourself always questioning people’s motives, it may be because your own motives are questionable. You may be viewing other people through the jaded prism of your own earthly motivations. That is what happened with Sanballat and Tobiah–they attacked Nehemiah’s motive because they did not have the higher motivation of advancing God’s kingdom.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Surviving And Thriving With Criticism” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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