Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
What does it look like to be overly critical, particularly as a believer?
The question carries with it the assumption that we can take our ideal for righteousness and impose it on another unfairly.
The difficulty lies in the one striving to uphold a standard of righteousness while imposing their standard upon another. The reason this lends itself to trouble is by the manner in which we judge another.
For instance, I know several people who call themselves christian and yet live with their boyfriend or girlfriend. The proclamation of following Christ and living in habitual sin is a serious dilemma. The one who understands the need for holiness recognizes that anyone living in this type of sinful behavior is lacking a significant understanding of what it means to follow Christ.
I have to ask myself, does the scripture of Revelation 21 apply to people who live habitually in these types of sins, regardless of their stated faith?
Revelation 21:6-8 “And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Does cowardice prevent us from receiving the Kingdom of God? What about lying, it seems everyone lies, how can that prevent someone from Heaven?
Some sins seems more obvious, murderers certainly garner more judgement than say, an idolater. Sexually immorallity is a very broad term and could imply a vast array of sexual sins that are prevalent in this day and age. Adultery is considered wrong by everyone, including people who have no connection to God’s Word, but fornication is considered normal in American society for those who say they love their significant other. Homosexuality is increasingly looked at as acceptable, there are certain church denominations who say that love is love, regardless of who’s doing it.
Are we being too critical in how we judge such things and if we are not, how should we go about it?
Judgement is a serious position to assume. When placing ourselves in the judgement seat, we place ourselves in a position that God holds over all of mankind.
Jesus addressed this issue with rhetoric that was quite condemning:
Matthew 7:1-5 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
The reminder Jesus gave was to first consider your own actions before you worry about the actions of others.
If we are concerned about a brother or sister who is living in sin, hopefully this concern isn’t a weakness for us.
I find it interesting that Jesus follows up this passage with the reminder of where we should place our pearls.
People who are living in sin and don’t care, are not believers; they can’t say they love the Lord one moment and live like they hate Him the next.
Habitual sin is hatred toward God.
So what are we supposed to do? Do we ignore the fact that a fellow professing believer continues in sin and not address it?
To the contrary, in Matthew 18, Jesus gives us the pattern by which we address sin, particularly people who have sinned against us. Alternatively, the encouragement for those who are caught in sin is addressed by Paul in Galatians.
Galatians 6:1 “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”
The way we go about restoring someone is not to denounce, crush, embarrass, or show hatred for them.
The process of restoration is done in love and gentleness.
So often, I hear of people bringing harsh criticism against others that projects a spirit of hatred, rather than love. I myself have been guilty of this conduct and find myself having to repent to God for inhibiting the work He is doing in them, rather than being a resource in God’s hand.
Confronting False Teaching
How do we know if a teaching is false?
If there are people who are practicing falsity, we could be throwing pearls before swine if we try to confront them with the Word when they simply won’t receive it. Usually, most people know they are living in sin and choose to ignore the reality of God’s judgement. Pleasure is more important that personal sacrifice, and thus these fake believers strive to keep one foot in the church and the other foot in the world.
What these charlatans of the faith don’t realize is how great the divide between God’s Kingdom and the world really is.
2 Timothy 3:14-17 “But as for you, continue in the things you have learned and firmly believed, since you know from whom you have learned them. From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.”
The way we know the Truth of God’s Word is by living it out. It’s one thing to read it on paper, it’s a whole different understanding when you live it out practically.
We can throw scripture at someone and show them their fault, but for them to receive it, they have to practice it. Training in righteousness is for the repentant at heart, who desire to walk in righteousness with eye toward restoration and healing.
Discernment is needed when working with someone living in sin. Sometimes giving them a scripture is all you can do, with hopes the Holy Spirit will bring the conviction that is needed. Sometimes people simply don’t understand the Truth of God’s Word, teaching them what is true and how to walk in it requires patient endurance.
I’ve known of people who intentionally darken the doors of a church that practices falsely, just to confront the method by which they practice. I can respect the boldness and tenacity to express the gospel, but I question if it is effective in expressing the Truth in love.
A Critical Spirit
Insecurity and jealousy can be reasons for having a critical spirit. Self-righteousness and disguised hatred are also attributes of someone who is overly critical.
James 5:9 “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”
We place ourselves under the same judgement we exact on others when we hold them to a standard based on our definition of how they should change rather than giving that change over to the Lord.
The last thing a believer wants is to exemplify hatred. When we are outspoken against our brothers, we show hatred for them and the love of God is not found among us. We cease being a light to the world and become a stumbling block for others coming to Christ.
Let’s practice learning how to build others up, instructing them in righteousness as the Lord leads, and if necessary, model faith in Christ before them.