Hear No Evil
In his famous lectures to the ministerial students of Spurgeon's College, the great English Baptist, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, was fond of saying, "that a minister ought to have one blind eye, and one deaf ear." According to Spurgeon, survival in the ministry required a pastor to look past the faults of others, and to turn a deaf ear to gossip about his ministry. No man can do a work for God if he pays too much attention to the evaluation of others. Spurgeon said: "You cannot stop people's tongues, and therefore the best thing is to stop your own ears, and never mind what is spoken. There is a world of idle chit-chat abroad, and he who takes note of it will have enough to do." The wise leader sees no evil, and hears no evil. Spurgeon is not encouraging his students to ignore that which is truly harmful to them or the church, but he is encouraging them to avoid collecting unnecessary offenses. Life is too short, and ministry too messy for that kind of sensitivity.
Spurgeon's advice is, in fact, based on some wise words from King Solomon in Ecclesiastes chapter seven. In a chapter centered on the enriching value of practical wisdom, Solomon commends the discipline of turning a blind eye and deaf ear to words of criticism and cursing. He writes: "Also do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others" (Eccles. 7:21-22)! Here is excellent advice in which Solomon counsels us to be more guarded and gracious as it relates to the hasty and nasty words of others. We need to be more guarded because in a fallen world, people will sin with their tongues (Eccles. 7:20; James 3:2). Therefore, the less we listen to what others say about us the better off we will be. To pay too much attention to what others think and say about us, is to set ourselves up for hurt. It is a foolish and fruitless thing to eavesdrop or run some rumor to the ground. Pascal said, "If all men knew what each said of the other there would not be four friends in the world."
The universality of sin would teach us not only to be more guarded but also to be more gracious. We would do well to quickly forget what we have heard through the grapevine about what others are saying about us, and we would do well to quickly remember our own failings in this matter of the tongue. To our own embarrassment we have all said things about people behind their backs that we would never say to their faces. To pay too much attention to what others say is not only a wasteful distraction, it can become an occasion for hypocrisy on our part (Matt. 7:1-5).
Let's be honest, if people knew what we know about ourselves, their criticism would double. Do others, yourself, and the kingdom of God a favor by asking God today for a blind eye and a deaf ear.