I have a Peanuts comic I cut out of the newspaper in my Bible. The first frame is Lucy standing next to the couch as Charlie Brown is kicking back watching tv. The next frame she sighs and gets a serious look. The next frame she sighs again and Charlie finally asks “What?” Her reply is “I feel a criticism coming on.” I love her honesty.
God doesn’t tell us to ignore what is wrong, He tells us to not to administer any un-called for criticism; that is, criticism that is unfair or unjustified.
Criticism that is either unfair or unjust, even if it’s true, should not be uttered. The fact that what you would say is true doesn’t necessarily make it right to say it. Often Satan’s accusations are true; he is an expert at being a judge. He is even called “the accuser of our brothers.” You may be pointing your finger and speaking words of truth, but you may unwittingly be an instrument of the devil as you speak.
We in ministry must understand this: we will never become holy criticizing others, nor is anyone brought nearer to God through finding fault! In the kingdom of God, unless you are first committed to die for people, you are not permitted to judge them.
Luke 18:9 Jesus warns us of those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.” Each time we criticize another person or even another church, contempt is the motive behind the words.
I have an acrostic that I have find helpful in preventing criticism within me and with the people around me. I will ask myself these questions or I will ask the person wanting to criticize or judge.
I call it NEED.
It helps me filter what I say by running through some questions.
Necessary – Is it necessary to say this? I mean really necessary! Our emotions can make things seem necessary to talk about. When someone hurts us, our emotions will want to justify why it’s necessary. In reality what our emotions want to do is hurt them back by ruining their reputation. The word says to overlook people’s faults, and mostly what we get annoyed at is people’s faults, their quirks. They aren’t actually committing a sin unto death.
Encourage – Will this encourage them? Will it make them feel better? Will what I am about to say reveal God’s unrelenting heart of mercy or will I bring a criticism, that will cut and demean the person. What are you encouraging in them? I find it best before I say anything to really look for evidences of grace in the person, no matter how small. That is the area God is moving in their life and I want to encourage more of that!
Edify – Will it edify? Will what I am about to say build up the person, the organization, the church and make it stronger? Is it gracious and gentle? Will it empower the person to want to do better or will it leave them feeling like a complete failure?
Dignified – Will it dignify that person? Jesus treated others with a sense of dignity. He let people save face. Will the conversation to this person or about this person protect their reputation? Even when we gently correct others do we bring dignity to the table? When we begin to see our own desperate need of mercy, we will seek eagerly for opportunities to be merciful to others. Saving face is mercy, it’s judgment withheld.