Frequent criticism is one of the unfortunate realities that comes with ministry. However, it becomes a harmful distraction when it is based on little things that don’t matter.

A famous radio preacher once wrote of a young missionary family who had a craving for peanut butter. There was none available where they were serving, so they asked a friend in the United States to send some.

When other missionaries found out about this, they took offense. They thought if the first missionaries were truly spiritual, then they would give up their peanut butter for Christ. The missionary couple disagreed and ate their peanut butter in private so there wouldn’t be any conflict. The conflict continued, and the relationship between the missionaries was badly damaged. Finally, the family took their peanut butter and returned home, never to set foot on the mission field again.

Were the young missionaries wrong for craving peanut butter? No. Should they have quit because of the criticism? No. Should the other missionaries have made their personal convictions about peanut butter a standard to measure the spirituality of the first couple? No. This small matter quickly blew out of proportion because of a lack of grace.

To be fair to the missionaries who opposed the peanut butter, they probably had good reasons. Giving up peanut butter and other comforts might have helped them get used to the culture, providing better ministry opportunities. But they went wrong when they let their differences come between their relationship with the young missionary couple. On the mission field (and in churches, families, and businesses alike), there are bigger things at stake than peanut butter. If we let something small like this divide us, then we will be distracted from our main purpose of winning souls to Christ.

We all hold different opinions. Unless our opinion is based on God’s Word, then we shouldn’t put others down for disagreeing with us. (The same goes for trying to convince others to change their opinions to match our way of thinking.) They aren’t wrong or less spiritual because they disagree. Be careful about criticizing others over things that don’t matter, or you risk doing more harm than good to the cause of Christ. Put God first; and look to the old, rugged cross. Nothing else matters.

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder