Recently my wife and I spent the evening with friends. In retrospect, I found myself troubled by the fact that throughout the evening the conversation was sprinkled with negative comments about the church, our political leaders, certain authors, etc. The next morning I picked up an article by publically acclaimed author Catherine Marshall, who related how she felt God had impressed upon her that she was to go on a fast from criticism. [She] was not to criticize anybody about anything. Throughout the day, to her bemusement, she noticed that in several conversations with groups of people, her silence went unmissed. The federal government, public education, the judicial system, etc. all came under the critical light. She kept silent.
As she continued on in her experiment to stop criticizing, here is what she discovered: Ideas began to flow in a way I had not experienced in years. Now it was apparent what the Lord wanted me to see. My critical nature had not corrected a single one of the multitudinous things I found fault with. What it had done was to stifle my own creativity in prayer, in relationships, perhaps even in writing ideas that He wanted to give me. 1
Mrs. Marshall came to the following conclusions as to why a critical spirit is so destructive:
A critical spirit focuses us on ourselves and makes us unhappy. We lose perspective and humor.
A critical spirit blocks the positive creative thoughts God longs to give us.
A critical spirit can prevent good relationships between individuals and often produces retaliatory criticalness.
Criticism blocks the work of the Spirit of God: love, good will, mercy.
Therefore, she concluded: Whenever we see something genuinely wrong in another persons behavior, rather than criticize him or her directly, or far worse gripe about him behind his back, we should ask the Spirit of God to do the correction needed. 1
The Scriptures are unequivocal in prohibiting a critical spirit:
Do not fret (literally: be vexed or hot with anger) because of evil men (Psa. 37:1).
"Do not judge (in ones own mind as to what is right proper or expedient), or you too will be judged Matt.7:1). (See Lk. 6:37; Rom. 2:1,2; 14:3,4, 10-14)
Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may be blameless and pure (Phil. 2:14a) (See Phil. 2:14b – 16)
Don't grumble (groan, grudge, sigh) against each other, brothers, or you will be judged (Jms. 5:9a). (See Num. 16:11; Dt. 1:27; Lk. 5:30; 15:2; 19:7; I Cor. 10;10)
Do not slander (backbite; find fault, falsely accuse) one another… (James 4:11a). (See Jude 1:16)
PRAYER: Lord, help me to understand that at the root of my critical spirit is my indomitable pride. Help me to recognize that only by pride cometh contention (Pro. 13:10a KJV). I am aware that I am in big trouble because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jms. 4:6a). Lord, in repenting of my pride I am asking you to transform my critical spirit into a heart of humility filled with Calvary love. Amen.
This week, may you experience His grace, peace, and protection.
R. Dwight Hill
1 Spiritual Classics, HarperSanFrancisco 2000, p. 59