Backhanded compliment

A church go’er wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. “I’ve gone for 30 years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me can’t remember a single one of them. So I think I’m wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.”

This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:

“I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall what the menu was for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: they all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me those meals, I would be dead today.”


This humorous anecdote has been on up on my office door for quite some time.  It makes a good point, one that I often make: Faith is cumulative.  Faith is not a one-time thing.  Maybe one worship service does not minister to you much.  Maybe a season of worship services does not minister to you much.  Well, keep coming!  You might be surprised how God is feeding your spirit without you realizing it.  (To say nothing about how worship is not first of all meant to be something that ministers to us…)

So the story has a good point.

But I cannot help but wonder what the man’s wife might have sarcastically said about his letter to the editor…  “For the life of you, you cannot remember a single one of the meals I’ve lovingly made for you?!  Thanks a lot, Dear!”

As a pastor, I can sometimes hear myself saying that about my sermons.

One thought on “Backhanded compliment

  1. Andy Holt says:

    Good word. In my more cynical moments, I wonder what the point is of spending so much time preparing and delivering a sermon. But you nailed it: faith is cumulative. A friend of mine once told me about a church he was attending where the word was not preached well. He said everyone looked starving.


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