When Helping Isn’t Helpful


At the school carnival, the kids ended up winning four “free” goldfish. Which now meant mom and dad had to go shell out money to keep the things alive. They went out to stores and found a few around $40-$70. Then, discarded over to the side was a filthy 10-gallon tank, with gravel and a filter included, being sold for $5. It was a done deal!

The tank was brought home and the family went to work cleaning the messy tank. After two hours of elbow grease and setting everything up, the tank looked pretty good. In went the fish. For the first day, everything was perfect. The next day, one fish had died. By Monday evening, two more had died. So, they called in a friend who had a big fish tank for some advice. The friend quickly discovered the problem. The tank had been washed with a harsh soap which was killing the fish. Despite the great efforts made to help the fish, what it actually ended up doing was killing them (Sermon Illustrations).

Most people like to help others. Unfortunately, what at times appears to be “helping,” is actually destroying. Harsh criticism. Insensitive comments. Nagging. Angry outbursts on trivial items. Without a doubt, people think they are helping, but instead all it does is discourage, dishearten, and destroy.

Generally speaking, people are already their own worst critics. A teacher probably saw that he could have explained a point better. The song leader probably knows he led that song too low or slow. The preacher probably knows which parts of the sermon could have gone better. Elders probably know the areas of the church that need improvement. Most times people are already working on the areas they lack.

Sometimes it’s helpful to remember back to the times when we were still learning and improving ourselves. Many waiting quietly and patiently for us to grow and learn on our own. At other times, someone who had a good reputation with us came and lovingly and encouragingly offered constructive criticism. Do we see the difference the impact someone like this would make?

Ephesians 4:14-16 provides a lot if insight into the right mindset, “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

If something absolutely must be said, then let’s make sure the advice it is very clearly lathered and intertwined with love and encouragement. Let’s make sure that what is said is going to help to lovingly build up the individual, and ultimately, the church.

In our efforts to clean up others’ mistakes, let’s make sure we aren’t using a “killer soap.” May our words be encouraging, our demeanor soft, our attitude loving, and our focus on the larger good of the church.

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