It is easy to be critical. I know. The reason I know is because I can easily be critical. But yesterday I was thinking about the things we criticize. Some things are worthy of criticism because they are evil, sinful, contrary to the Law of God and the good of humanity (1 Thess. 5:21). But other things are not worthy of criticism. Herein lies the problem, sometimes we criticize simply because we are critical people, and the things we criticize reveals in us a smallness and pettiness. The things we criticize reveals our hearts.
Here is what criticism of small things looks like: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Mat 7:3-5).
The person with a critical spirit is deeply judgmental over specks in other people’s eyes. Specks are small things. Discernment and even at times, judgment, is a Christian responsibility. But godly discernment comes with a biblical critique and the ability to weigh what is worthy of judgment. Sometimes specks are just specks. Some things can just be covered with love (1 Pet. 4:8). Sometimes we criticize good things because we haven’t thought enough about what we are criticizing. We shoot from the hip. The critical person thinks he needs to judge everything and give his weighty opinion on every matter, no matter how small.
First, this is hypocrisy. It is hypocrisy because the critic is not seeing his own sins, shortcomings, or failures. He fails to see his lack of charity. He, after all, is about truth (or so he thinks). But this is hypocritical, remember, he has a big log in his eye.
Second, it defies the calls in Scripture to simply be kind (Eph. 4:32). At the end of the day, the critic of small things reveals a small heart that lacks any common decency or kindness.
Third, it defies the calls in Scripture to use one’s words wisely for edification (Eph. 4:29). For the critic, his words are a sword, wielded by pride. He swings it widely and wildly, always with a fan or two cheering him on. He in many ways fits the profile of the fool, who thinks everyone is entitled to his caustic and cutting words (Prov. 18:2).
When we find ourselves criticizing every little thing, it is because we have become a little person. When we find ourselves criticizing the things we don’t like, not because they are evil or sinful, but because we don’t like them, we have become insignificant pontiffs, who’s opinion matter very little.
If we really want to aim our guns of criticism at something worthy of criticism, then let us aim them at ourselves first. “Who can discern his errors?” (Psa. 19:12a). “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Mat 7:5). By the way, sometimes when we have excavated the log out of our own eye, we see clearly enough to know what should be covered in love.
“Let us examine and probe our ways and let us return to the LORD” (Lam 3:40). “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Co 13:5). “But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another” (Gal 6:4).
Let’s consider our critical words before they come out of our mouths or before we write them down in social media. I know I am an offender here and I need to take this to heart. I don’t want to be known as that guy who always has a word of criticism. I want to be discerning; I must be discerning. But I must also be charitable and kind. I must be truthful but I must not be petty. May I be quick to criticize myself. May God help us guard our hearts and our mouths (Prov. 4:22; Psa. 141:3).
Brian Borgman (BA, Biola University; MDiv, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary; DMin, Westminster Seminary; ThM, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary) is a pastor at Grace Community Church in Minden, NV. He is husband to Ariel and father of three.
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