Let me start off by saying this: We are all sinners. Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:13 says, "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." Sin is ugly and painful. It is destructive. The Bible shows us what our sin looks like. The Bible shows us what we are capable of when we are separated from God...from His love, His grace, His mercy, and His righteousness. In our sin, we are selfish, and we are destructive. In our sin, we are evil. Thank God for Jesus! Thank God for the perfect life, the sacrificial death, and the glorious resurrection of Jesus! Thank God for salvation! Thank God for repentance and for confession! Thank God for forgiveness and for cleansing and for new life!
As Christ followers, we are not perfect. We are sinners saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We are not better than others. We are not more important or more deserving than others. We are not children of God because of our own righteousness (we have none of our own), but rather, we are children of God because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But if we are not careful, we can begin to believe that we are better. We can begin to believe we are more important. We can begin to believe we are more deserving. We can begin to believe the lies that Satan can and will use in our homes, in our workplaces, in our communities, and oh yes, in our churches. BEWARE OF BEING CRITICAL.
In his book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says, "The average Christian is the most piercingly critical individual known." Ouch!!! He goes on to say, "Criticism is one of the ordinary activities of people today, but in the spiritual realm nothing is accomplished by it. The effect of criticism is the dividing up of the strengths of the one being criticized. The Holy Spirit is the only one in the proper position to criticize, and He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding. It is impossible to enter into fellowship with God when you are in a critical mood. Criticism serves to make you harsh, vindictive, and cruel, and leaves you with the soothing and flattering idea that you are somehow superior to others." Do you know someone like this? Do you have to go very far to find this person? Many of us struggle with criticism...not just in receiving it, but in dishing it out as well. It just always seems so much easier to point out the faults of someone else rather than pointing out our own faults. Jesus is clear in Matthew 7:1-6 that we are not to judge others. Jesus calls me what I am when I am focused on the speck in my brother's eye and missing the plank in my own eye: "YOU HYPOCRITE!" Paul speaks to Christ followers in Romans 14:10-12 about being judgmental and critical, when he says, "You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.' So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God." God knows the motives of our heart when our tongues speak. When we are critical of others and judgmental, He knows when it is being used to build up ourselves and being used to tear down others. He knows when the criticism that spews from our mouths is because of unfair expectations. Sometimes we use the term "constructive criticism." Many leaders will tell you that constructive criticism can be a good thing when it is directed squarely to the individual and not behind his/her back to others. Constructive criticism comes from a heart motivated and a mouth initiated to build up others and lead them to divine wisdom and positive growth. Constructive criticism is about creating and maintaining fair expectations of others and what they are trying to accomplish. Dale Robbins, author and pastor, says, "Someone with a critical spirit is consumed by an obsessive attitude of criticism and fault-finding, which seeks to tear others down. The only criticism that is ever constructive is that which is expressed in love to build up, not to tear down. It is always expressed face-to-face, never behind their backs. The person with a critical spirit usually dwells on the negative, seeks for flaws in others rather than strengths. This person is usually a complainer. This person usually has little or no control over his/her tongue or temper."
BEWARE OF BEING CRITICAL. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 18 that if we have a problem with a brother or sister, then we are to go to that brother or sister and try to work it out. If we can't work it out together, then we get two or three witnesses to go with us, and we try to work it out in a group effort. If that group effort doesn't work, then it is brought before the church. Paul also tells us of these important words in Ephesians 4:29-32, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Paul was talking to Christ followers. Paul was talking to the church. Paul was talking to me.
Father, Your Word is clear to me. I am a sinner. I confess my sin before You. I confess to You that I have blown it time and time again with criticism. I know that I have hurt others in the way I have spoken and acted...in my home, in my workplaces, in my community, and yes, even in my church. I believe Jesus is the Messiah. I believe in His life, death, and resurrection. Thank You, Father, for saving me from my sin and forgiving me of my sin. But Father, I still struggle with my sinful and selfish nature. I struggle with being critical and judgmental at times. Help me, Father, to turn from this sinful and selfish nature. Help me to be a man who builds other up, not a man who tears them down. Help me to handle differences with others correctly. Keep my feet from moving behind the backs of those I disagree with or those who wrong me. Keep my mouth from spewing with criticism that only seeks to puff me up and deflate others. Father, help me be an encourager to everyone, even those I don't agree with, even those who have wronged me. Help me speak to everyone in such a way that it will lead us all to wisdom and to growth...together...for the good of Your kingdom. May the Holy Spirit stir my heart and fill my mouth with words of edification for Your glory and Your honor. Amen.