The Charlatan versus The Learner a.k.a. Don’t Waste Your Time

Taking a break from the lovey dovey stuff to blog about something that’s been brewing in my mind for weeks (probably years).

We all have questions and we all encounter people with questions.

As a learner and follower, I’m grateful for when those wiser than me have taken time to listen to me and respond to my questions.

As a leader and teacher, I’m grateful for when my students ask questions because it shows they are interested and engaged with the discussion.

But some people say they’re asking questions, but they only want to be argumentative or to get their point across. Real dialogue isn’t possible because they’re only interested in telling not listening.

I had a guy I didn’t know come up to me recently after a talk I gave:


Him: You did a great job. But you had one mistake.
Me: Oh, thanks for pointing that out. Which one was it?
Him: You said HELPFUL, PRACTICAL TEACHING but I disagree because CLEARLY HERETICAL THEOLOGY. What do you think?
Me: I think that point is never established in Scripture. Where do you see it?
Him: It’s there. I don’t know where. It’s there though. You just failed to say it.
Me: (smiling) Great catching up with you, man.

It wasn’t worth the time getting into a discussion with him about it because he clearly wasn’t open to being corrected about it. I didn’t want to waste his time or mine.

As I thought about this encounter and several others, I came up with this table to help differentiate between people who are asking legitimate questions to learn and advance the conversation and those who are asking questions for attention, notoriety, or to just be critical.

Wednesday Blog.001
charlatan: a person falsely claiming to have a special knowledge or skill

Don’t waste your time on Charlatans. And don’t waste their time too since they probably fancy themselves on a mission to enlighten the ignorant masses around them. But if you’re a leader just direct them away from the people you lead since you also have a responsibility over those who follow you.

Definitely listen to the Learners. Hear their concerns and address them, then watch their joy and productivity soar.

And always appreciate the silent, unsung heroes. The ones who do most of the work, carry most of the weight, reach most of the people without much complaints, comments, or criticisms. Investing with them is never a waste of time.

Proverbs 26:12 (NIV)

Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Join the discussion

  • I agree with most of the things you pointed out in your table. But saying that charlatans are probably not contributing much anyway is a bit harsh, don’t you think? These people could just as easily have been contributing to make this world a better place, only in a less straight-forward way than you. People whom you’ve categorized as charlatans are still every bit as human as you. Why should we label them when we could help them instead? Why can’t we use our answers to their questions as tools for them to be “learners”? Why should we only hear and address the concerns of the “learners” when it is clearly the charlatans in need of this? I believe that I don’t need to remind you that Jesus came here for the sick, the lost. In short, those in need. You say that we should ignore them and that’s what I don’t understand. If we were to ignore them — charlatans and the like — what hope is there for them? If no one starts guiding them now, how are we going to fulfill our cause? And if we were to direct others away from them too, who among us will reach out to them? Who will correct the beliefs they so strongly hold in their hearts? Who will show them the light? Aren’t they just souls longing for attention, love and understanding — the very same things you were called to share? Just imagine how they’re going to feel if they were able to read what you just said. If they don’t ever see God’s followers accepting them for who they are right now, how will they ever believe that a God will — especially since that particular God had seen the darkest parts of their hearts? How will they ever see the good in them when we’re so busy pointing out the bad? And lastly, don’t we also have the responsibility, as leaders, to invest in these people and to cherish them for what they truly are: precious children of God? We are all still equal, saved or unsaved, and let us live by that.

    Religion should unite us all — every race, every belief, every gender and every person — but if we continually put a line between us and those who are different from us, they might just think it’s too late for them. We should walk beyond that line and put ourselves in the place of those in that area. By doing so, we slowly erase that which keeps us separated and one day, it would be as if it never existed.

    • I appreciate your comment! Sincerely… I think you bring up very good points and the reason is for the sake of brevity, I didn’t tackle all the sides of the issue. And you brought up those sides very well. I don’t see a difference between the points and if I may explain…

      Your two main points were:

      1. Charlatans contribute also. Why did I say they probably aren’t contributing much anyway?
      2. If we ignore them, who will help them? You gave many reasons in support of this, all of which I’m in agreement with: they’re human beings also, Jesus commands us to reach out to everyone, who will help them if we give up on them, etc.

      And I agree with both your points. Here’s where I could have been clearer.

      1. I wrote this for leaders of a specific group or context. I think the statement “not contributing much anyway” is too sweeping and could have been specified as “not contributing much to your team, mission, or cause anyway.” (Like I said earlier, I was trying to keep it short.) And this is true. Many of these types of personalities who are noisy, loud, and critical often aren’t contributing to the team they’re complaining about.

      But, just like you said, they could theoretically be contributing to make the world a better place. Just not in the area of that leader or that team. I hope that’s clearer.

      2. I definitely agree with you that we should never give up on anyone. I never actually said “ignore them” in my blog either. That’s your statement, not mine. I did say, “Don’t waste your time on Charlatans.” And I think those are two different things. I could have been clearer about that, which is why I appreciate your comment.

      Ignore them, give up on them, leave them for dead, etc – these are wrong attitudes. And we must never do that to anyone, just like we’re thankful that Jesus never did that to us.

      But when I say “don’t waste your time” that speaks of prioritization. There are only so many hours in a day, only so many people you can meet, only so many things you can discuss. As leaders, we have the responsibility of spending that time wisely in order to help as many as possible.

      You said Jesus came for the sick and the lost, which was (is) the entire population of the world. That’s true. How did He reach them? He lived a life that was open to people from all walks of life – rich and poor, spiritual and unspiritual, etc.

      But we also see Him investing His time in His disciples – people who were willing to follow Him and learn from Him. This selection process is clear and He even instructs His disciples to do the same when He sends them out. Jesus prioritized those willing to learn.

      As nice as it sounds that we should be open to everyone, it is too abstract to live out. We must acknowledge our limited time and energy and we must also face the reality that not everyone is in the same position of openness.

      In fact, it could be argued, that by spending more time than is appropriate with someone who insists on their foolishness, we are depriving the thousands of people who are more open and ready.

      This is why Jesus often rebuked people who were bloated with spiritual teaching with no heart change, while He marveled at those who with the little they knew, had believed so much already.

      So definitely, let’s not ignore them. Let’s keep the lines of communication open. Let them know that should anything come up, we are always there for them. Talk about something else, anything else. Be their friend, but don’t think they’re really on board with everything you’re doing.

      But I still stand by “not wasting time” on them. There are too many other people to reach for us to waste time, energy, and effort on people who will not be taught. The best thing is to focus on those who are teachable, while keeping the relational lines open with the unteachable ones, hoping that things will change one day.

      And I didn’t say all that in the blog because it would have been much longer. (Probably as long as this reply) So I thank you for your comment and the chance to mention it here.

  • for the record, i agree with ptr Joseph.

    take note, there is a difference between a charlatan and a learner. charlatans do NOT want to learn. the bible calls certain people “fools who delight in listening to their own voices” and “unwilling to learn”. in fact, Jesus never wasted His time with charlatans. remember the pharisees? the pharisees asked one question after another trying to find evidence against Jesus. Jesus never wasted His time. He simply exposed the pharisees’ intentions, then moved on.

    are charlatans still human? yes. but being human is a label as opposed to being an animal. and there are different kinds of humans. there are liars, there are truth speakers. there are faithful people and unfaithful people. there are men and women. there are singles and married. there are thieves and law-abiders. we can not help what we don’t first label. any doctor knows that you can’t treat a disease without first defining/ labeling it. did Jesus label people? yes. Jesus called people sick, lost, in need, dying, hungry, thirsty… Jesus also called people “children of the devil”, “liars”, “brood of vipers” and “white washed tombs.”

    and note too that Jesus never ran after every person who was “lost and in need.” case in point? the rich young ruler. in fact, when Jesus said “whoever does not take up his cross is not worthy of me”, THOUSANDS of people left. Jesus LET them leave. religion, by definition, is actually divisive. there is truth, there is untruth. there is the doctrine of God and the doctrine of demons. charlatans, for the most part, are people who do NOT want to learn.

    now, there is a difference between a charlatan and a learner, and a learnED. sometimes, people who are learnED encounter teachers who are teaching false teachings. so they ask questions in the hopes of carrying a conversation with the teacher. sadly, many teachers today don’t like evaluating what they teach. i’m glad that ptr Joseph is one of those who teach and learn simultaneously.

    God bless to everyone. 🙂

  • well, you’re a good writer with great insights. please do keep it up bro. you’re reaching and influencing a lot of people. i pray that God would bless your ministry non-stop! 🙂

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  • Good read Pastor Joseph, really liked the following lines and a reality check for me:

    “Don’t waste your time on Charlatans. And don’t waste their time too since they probably fancy themselves on a mission to enlighten the ignorant masses around them. But if you’re a leader just direct them away from the people you lead since you also have a responsibility over those who follow you.”

    “As nice as it sounds that we should be open to everyone, it is too abstract to live out. We must acknowledge our limited time and energy and we must also face the reality that not everyone is in the same position of openness.”

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