A critical spirit reveals what really resides in our heart.
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
While there are times where judging is necessary (John 7:24), most of the time, it gets us in deep trouble. A lingering critical spirit will show itself, do its destructive work, and leave us spiritually disconnected and alienated from God. It can happen in an instant without warning, and if we fail to recognize it, it will destroy us, and we may not even notice. The typical Christian, though he doesn’t see it, is so devoted to legalism that he thinks he is actually doing a service by helping God identifying all the spiritual under-achievers so they can be disciplined or punished appropriately.
Too often, once the critical comment leaves our lips, our flesh continues what it has begun. Deep down, our motive is to show ourselves superior to the one we have criticized, as if we would never do or say such a thing. The truth is that we tend to see in others those things that we detest about ourselves, giving credence to the old phrase I heard so often when I was a kid, “It takes on to know one.” This is what Titus 1:15 is all about:
To the pure, everything is pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled.
We can only recognize something we are familiar with. Therefore, if we see something in another worthy of our criticism, it is because that very thing dwells in our own hearts. This has been a profound lesson for me as I came to understand what this verse was saying about me and my wicked heart (Jer. 17:9). I learned that if my heart was defiled, I tend to see defilement everywhere. I will assume evil motives in others because I know what I would do under the same circumstances. I will be cynical about what I hear because, deep down, I know that my own words are deceitful (Rom. 2:1).
On the flip side, if my heart is pure, I tend to see the best in people. I see them as God sees them. If I have been dwelling on the right things (Phil. 4:8), my heart will become purified, and I will see others in light of my new outlook. I won’t be finding fault in others because I’m no longer looking for it. I’m seeing the best in them and encouraging them to let their little light shine. This doesn’t mean I’ll be naïve or gullible, but I’ll stop focusing on their obvious faults or what I believe to be evil motives.
AS I SEE IT
The truth is that apart from God’s grace, we are nothing (Rom. 3:10-18). In our attempts to show our superiority through our criticism, we condemn ourselves (Rom. 2:17-20) and call God a liar for saying such mean and unwarranted things about us. In the end, we accomplish nothing good through our criticism. The Holy Spirit is the only one in a position to criticize. He alone is able to criticize without wounding.
If we are learning to walk in the Spirit, we will repent and cast our burdens on the Lord, recognizing that because we died with Christ on the cross (Rom. 6:6), the power of the real culprit, sin itself, was broken, put out of business. We reckon ourselves to be dead to that sin and walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4) as we allow Christ to live out His life through us. This is the way we’re supposed to respond, and it is possible only when we recognize the sad truth about ourselves, and the glorious truth that everything good in us is the result of walking in the Spirit.
Consider your own heart. How do you view the words and actions of others? Are you critical, skeptical, or judgmental? If so, ask God to purify your heart and begin to dwell on the things that are pleasing to God by reckoning yourself to be dead to sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. If you are a believer, God judges you through the atonement of Jesus. Shouldn’t you do the same for those God has placed in your life?
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
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