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Sunday, June 11, 2006 pm


A Study of the Tongue – 7b

Distinguishing Between constructive and sinful criticism


Tonight we insert a special lesson dealing with our Sunday morning series dealing with the tongue.   We have been noticing various categories of sins of the tongue.  This morning we addressed sins of discontent.  

We noted that one of the challenges we face with criticism is the fact that it can actually be a good thing when used properly.    But criticism can certainly be, and probably more often than not, sinful.  Our task this evening will be to determine the difference between these two types of criticism.  (I want to express my appreciation to Joe Price for some of the material in this lesson.)


I.                     Godly criticism

a.        This morning we addressed how criticism and complaining can be sinful.  But there are times when we need criticism or to hear complaints.  These are times when corrective action or improvements are necessary in a given situation.

b.       We have all heard of constructive criticism.  That is one who critiques a work with the intent of helping you to improve.  Often such “criticism” is solicited.
In the midst of the numerous sinful and ungrateful complaints we noticed this morning, there was one time when Moses was critiqued for his own good. 
Notice Exodus 18:14-18 when his father-in-law comes to him and notices that he is wearing himself and the people out by judging all matters himself.  He is told, this is not good.  BUT then, he is given good advice on how to deal with the problem.
At times, Jesus Himself was very critical of His enemies.  He exposed wickedness, inconsistencies and at times weaknesses.  But when He did it, it was ALWAYS right.

c.        And there are times when we need to complain.  Acts 6:1 records a murmuring (complaints) among the Grecians because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.  Again notice how the complaint was addressed (6:2) and good came about.

d.       So how do we determine whether or not we should say something?  What makes criticism good or bad?  While we always understand that each case must be weighed on its own merits, there are some standards to consider that will help us determine whether or not we ought to say something.  That will be our task this evening. 


II.                   Sinful criticism vs. Constructive criticism

a.        Sinful criticism may be driven by hatred.  Many times, criticism is a tool of enemies.  We have noted some of these things in discussing various sins of the tongue.
Proverbs 26:24-26 notes, “He who hates, disguises it with his lips, and lays up deceit within himself.”
The enemies of Jesus sought to find fault with Jesus because they hated Him.
Joseph’s brethren despised him – Gen. 37:4, we are told they hated him and could not speak peaceably of him.
Godly criticism is driven by love.  We go to one who NEEDS to change or can become better as a result of constructive suggestions.  Romans 13:10 – Love does no harm to his neighbor…
This love is seen not only in what is said, but WHO it is said to and HOW it is said.  Cf. Jas. 5:19-20.
Ask yourself HONESTLY, What is my motive for criticizing? Am I sincere or just simply complaining?

b.       Sinful criticism only condemns.  He is not interested in finding solutions or peace, just getting out his complaints and exposing.  It often comes in barrages, one attack after another.
Godly criticism corrects – When Paul rebuked Peter in Galatians 2:11, he intended to correct him.  It goes to the one who has a fault – Matthew 18:15-17.
Ask yourself, When I am done criticizing, will I have made the situation any better? 

c.        Sinful criticism is often vengeful.  It is driven by a desire to get even or cause misery in the life of another.  Prov. 24:29 says, “Do not say, ‘I will do harm to him as he has done to me.   I will render to the man according to his work’”
Godly criticism is peaceful and merciful.  It is presented with consideration as to its impact.  We have already noted how we ought to avoid harsh speech.  We are to be peacemakers – Matthew 5:9.  We are to pursue peace – Hebrews 12:14.
Romans 12:17 tells us, “Repay no one evil for evil.”
Ask yourself, Did I criticize out of spite or because I don’t like this person?   Am I criticizing to get even with him?

d.       Sinful criticism is often obsessive.  Have you ever heard someone get on a topic and refuse to let it go? As stated this morning, for many criticism becomes a lifestyle.  When you see them that is what you expect (and thus try to avoid them).  1 Timothy 6:4-5 speaks of those who are proud, ignorant and “obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of truth,…”
Godly criticism is gentle and forbearing.  It is given with the intent of saving a soul – Jude 22-23.
Ask yourself HONESTLY, Do others see me as a habitual criticizer?

e.        Sinful criticism often entraps.  Consider the example of Jesus – Luke 11:53-54 – they were LOOKING for something to condemn.  Also 20:20.
Godly criticism examines.  When one goes to another it is often to CLARIFY misunderstandings.  You may be noting some concern either in something another has said or done. 
1 John 4:1 notes that we are to test the spirits.
Quite often, I am questioned for things I say in my lessons.  I welcome these questions as long as they are intended as honest examination and not simply fault finding to accuse.  And we ALL ought to have the right to expect that.
Ask yourself, Am I constantly looking for faults in others.

f.         Sinful criticism binds traditions.  Ungodly criticism is often not about what God’s word REALLY says, but what someone wants it to say or their private interpretations.  Again the enemies of Jesus portray this perfectly. Matthew 15:1-2 where they complain because Jesus and His disciples didn’t act like them.
Godly criticism binds ONLY the truth.  It is found in one who is not determined to get his way all the time.  Instead, he loves the truth and would not dare twist it in any way, shape or form.  Before reaching a conclusion, he listens and weighs all sides, much like the Bereans in Acts 17:11.
Ask yourself, Can I with 100% certainly assure that my view is 100% right and the one I criticize is 100% wrong?

g.       Sinful criticism is often a product of self-righteousness.  It often stems from one who thinks he is better than others, especially his target.  He is like the Pharisee who as he prayed was bragging about how great he was. Luke 18:9-12
Godly criticism based on self-reproach (I am NOT better than you, etc.).  It comes from him who realizes he is fallible and that he NEEDS his brother.  Whatever concerns he has needs to be worked out for both their sakes.  He has the attitude of the tax collector in Luke 18:13.
Ask yourself, In criticizing have I made myself look better than the one I criticized? (Note: Motive is not the only thing to consider here).  What is my REAL motive in criticism?

h.       Sinful criticism judges by appearance.  It often takes no account of the real motives behind what one says or does.  It is based on assumptions rather than fact.
Godly criticism judges righteously.  John 7:24.  It weighs everything before speaking.  As the love of a Christian is described, it “thinks no evil” – 1 Cor. 13:5
Ask yourself, Have I really examined all the facts before criticizing another? Have I tried to put myself in his shoes?  HAVE I LISTENED to his side?

i.         Sinful criticism rejoices in sin.  Unlike 1 Cor. 13:6, it seems gleeful in exposing sin and weaknesses in the lives of others.
Godly criticism rejoices in truth.  It is spoken bearing all things, believing all things, enduring all things and hoping all things (1 Cor. 13:6-7)
Ask yourself, After criticizing another, how do I feel about myself?  Do you feel pride and joy in what you have done, or is there sorrow (like Paul in 2 Corinthians


III.                 Other questions to ask when determining whether or not to criticize

a.        Is my heart pure in this matter? 
Ask, “Why am I saying this?”  Is it a valid concern? 
All that we do as Christians ought to be from a pure heart – 1 Timothy 1:5, 1 Peter 1:22.

b.       Do I have the right to criticize? (Mote in eye syndrome).  Have I examined myself?

c.        If the situation were reversed, Am I treating them as I would like to be treated? Matthew 7:12

d.       Is it really needed?  If not, is it really wanted? Sometimes we appoint ourselves as the official critic and always have advice and suggestions for everything.   We can’t let anything go at face value, we HAVE TO find something that is wrong.

e.        How am I going to say what needs to be said?  Note Romans 12:9-18

f.         How am I going to help him overcome his problems?

g.       Will God be glorified because I say this? Will good come from it?


IV.                Receiving criticism.

a.        An even bigger challenge we face as Christians is the ability to TAKE criticism. 

b.       Too many of us wear our feelings on our sleeves.  Just as the critic is looking to criticize, we are looking to READ criticism into everything that is said.  Like the critic, we ignore motives and the overall picture.  In turn, WE TOO BECOME CRITICS.

c.        Hear this, CONSIDER WHAT IS SAID!  IF it is true, the SOURCE does not matter.  IF you need to repent, be thankful that you became aware of your need.  It is possible their attacks were meant in a hostile way, but so what.  The best thing you can do is DO WHAT IS RIGHT!

d.       But, in many cases, the critic can be silenced if we would just simply ignore him (I am not saying ignore sin or a trouble maker – because such will only make matters worse).  But if you can disregard what is being said – you can possibly stop it.  Where there is no wood – the fire goes out. Proverbs. 26:20

e.        Finally, consider the source:  Many times you are simply the latest victim of a criticizer.  If so, don’t let it ruin your life – or even your day!  You keep doing good and what is right and let God take care of the sinner – cf. Romans 12:17-21.
Note a couple of quotes dealing with this:
Abraham Lincoln tell of his integrity leading a war-torn nation:  “I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth. I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me.”  AND
I do the very best I know how; the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing it to the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me will not amount to anything. If the end brings me out all wrong, then a legion of angels swearing I was right will make no difference.”

The book of 7700 Illustrations also gave the following true story.
While contending with the manifold problems of geography and climate in the building of the Panama Canal, Colonel George Washington Goethals had to endure the carping criticism of countless busybodies back home who freely predicted that he would never complete his great task. But the resolute builder pressed steadily forward in his work and said nothing.
“Aren’t you going to answer your critics?” a subordinate inquired.
“In time,” Goethals replied.
“How?”  The great engineer smiled.  “With the canal,” he replied.



Thus we can see some ways to help us distinguish between needed, constructive criticism and the ungodly type that will damage lives and kill churches.  Before we start talking about others, think about some of these things.