The Nature of Criticism


It is hard to do much of anything in thing in this world without running into someone that complains about it.


A man by the name of Clem Thurman tells this story: ďWhen I was a young lad on the farm in western Oklahoma, we had a team of mules. It fell my lot to work those mules quite often, and I soon found that one of them loved to kick. On a wagon, that wasnít a problem to me, because I was far away from his heals. But when I was on a harrow or go-devil, I was pretty close, and I was worried. When I expressed my concern to Papa, he told me, ĎHeís not trying to hurt you. He just kicks so he wonít have to pull.í I soon found that was true. And through the years, I have found that same thing to be true with most of us human beings! We quite often kick about various things to keep from working. And it is true in the Lordís church. Regardless of the program of work proposed in the congregation, some are going to find fault with it. Most of those fault-finders never work in any program, but they kick against all of the programs.


With this story in mind let begin to examine the nature of criticism and why some people like to criticize:


Some like to criticize because they want a share of the glory. We can example of this in:


Judges 7:19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outpost of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just as they had posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers that were in their hands.20 Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers -- they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing -- and they cried, "The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!"21 And every man stood in his place all around the camp; and the whole army ran and cried out and fled.22 When the three hundred blew the trumpets, the LORD set every man's sword against his companion throughout the whole camp; and the army fled to Beth Acacia, toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel Meholah, by Tabbath.23 And the men of Israel gathered together from Naphtali, Asher, and all Manasseh, and pursued the Midianites.24Then Gideon sent messengers throughout all the mountains of Ephraim, saying, "Come down against the Midianites, and seize from them the watering places as far as Beth Barah and the Jordan." Then all the men of Ephraim gathered together and seized the watering places as far as Beth Barah and the Jordan.25 And they captured two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued Midian and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side of the Jordan.


Most of us should be familiar with this story. God ask Gideon to go up against the Midianites who were about 135,000 strong and he wanted him to do it with just 300 men to show that God was the one that making them be victorious. With Godís help were able to be victories despite the fact that they were grossly outnumbered. Notice the critics we are about next:


Judges 8:1 Now the men of Ephraim said to him, "Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites?" And they reprimanded him sharply.2 So he said to them, "What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?3 "God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do in comparison with you?" Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.


Instead of rejoicing that God had given Israel victory, the Ephriamites complained that they didnít get a share of the battle. It never ceases to amaze how some will criticize that which has been successful because they did not get to take part in it. I can understand how good it feels to be part of something successful, but just because we were not involved with something good happened for the Lord does not give us a right to complain or criticize about it.


Think about this. When is the last time you heard someone complain or criticize someone when what they did was not successful? When there is no glory to miss out on the critics are silent about not being involved, but no doubt they will criticize the failure.


Some become critical if there is any change from their norm. We have good example of this from when Peter was called by God to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. We need to understand that Jews would not have anything to do with the Gentilesand they would not dare step foot into their house, but this is what Peter did because things had changed with the NT was preached because it message was forever person. Since this was a major change for Jews it brought out the critics as we read in:


Acts 11:1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him,3 saying, "You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!"


At first, the Jews could not believe what Peter had done, and they demanded to know what in the world he was doing. Instead of be thankful that God had granted the Gentiles salvation they wanted to criticize, but thankfully they listened to Peterís explanation and realized that their criticism was unwarranted.


We see this sometimes in the church. When something is done a little bit differently than the norm it makes us uncomfortable and have tendency to be critical of the change when nothing is Scripturally wrong with it. Before we criticize something, we need to really think about it and examine closely before speak out. Of course, if something is being done that is authorized or allowed by Scripture, then by all means let your voice be heard. ††


Some will also criticize even when the right thing is being done for example notice:

Judges 6:25 Now it came to pass the same night that the LORD said to him, "Take your father's young bull, the second bull of seven years old, and tear down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the wooden image that is beside it;26 "and build an altar to the LORD your God on top of this rock in the proper arrangement, and take the second bull and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the image which you shall cut down."27 So Gideon took ten men from among his servants and did as the LORD had said to him. But because he feared his father's household and the men of the city too much to do it by day, he did it by night.


Gideon is doing what should have been done a long time ago, but not the reaction to what he did as we continue to read:


28And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, there was the altar of Baal, torn down; and the wooden image that was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was being offered on the altar which had been built.29 So they said to one another, "Who has done this thing?" And when they had inquired and asked, they said, "Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing."30 Then the men of the city said to Joash, "Bring out your son, that he may die, because he has torn down the altar of Baal, and because he has cut down the wooden image that was beside it."31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, "Would you plead for Baal? Would you save him? Let the one who would plead for him be put to death by morning! If he is a god, let him plead for himself, because his altar has been torn down!"32 Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, "Let Baal plead against him, because he has torn down his altar."


These men had become accustomed to worshipping false gods so they found the right think offensive and began to criticize the righteous action before their eyes. This same things happens in the church sometimes when it comes to church discipline and making necessary changes that should had been done long ago. Those who become used to tolerating certain sins or doing things certain ways will rise up and criticize what is being done even though it was the right thing to do, We must pay close attention to ourselves and make sure we do not find ourselves being critical when righteous judgments or changes are being made.


Sometimes people even criticize things when they get what they want. For example, the children of Israel prayed for many years to be freed from their Egyptian bondage and God made it happen, but notice their reaction to what they wanted:


Exodus 17:1 Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink.2 Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, "Give us water, that we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the LORD?"3 And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, "Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?"

The process of getting what the wanted required some difficult times on their part. They had to change what they were used to and caused them to begin to doubt God and the decision they made even though it was what they asked for. Again it just shows how disabling change can be even when it is for the better.


How many times have you experienced this in your life. Perhaps you prayed that God would help you find a different job or something else. Whatever you prayed for you got it, but once you did it was difficult to accept the change that went along with it. We need to understand that sometimes change for the better can be difficult, but many times it necessary. Instead of be critical about it, embrace it and let God give you the strength to get through it.


Some people turn to criticism when they donít have any control over what happens in their life and they will begin criticize God. Isaiah write:


Isaiah 45:9 " Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' Or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands'?10 Woe to him who says to his father, 'What are you begetting?' Or to the woman, 'What have you brought forth?' "


It not always easy to accept the fact that some things are out of our control, but as Christians, we must learn to trust in God and realize that He has our best interest at heart. While we would love God prevent every accident and bad thing in our life, He is not going to prevent life from happening and He is not going break the laws of physics that He put into place, but He will be there for us and help us through our difficult times. So, we have no right to criticize God for the things we have no control over.


Some have tendency to be critical of other so that they can cover up their own faults and blame things others. For example a child may blame their sibling or their parents for doing what the did so they can shift the blame. As Christians, we should not be this way and we should own up to our own mistakes regardless of the influences others have had on us because we have a free will to choose what path we will take.


Criticism will also come from those that do not want to see you succeed. This is what happened during the rebuilding of the wall during Nehemiahís time.


Nehemiah 4:1 But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews.2 And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish -- stones that are burned?"3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, "Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall."


These men did not want the walls rebuilt because they were not allowed to part of rebuilding. So, they did their best to criticize the Jews so that they might plant seeds of doubt in their minds. They were saying things like:


  • You canít do it, youíve been defeated before. Youíre too weak.
  • It will take too long.
  • You donít have the right material.
  • You donít know what you are doing
  • It wonít last


This can happen today as well. Churches that are active, with plans and programs to reach out to the lost with the gospel will be criticized. The criticism will come from those who wonít work in any program that is put in place.


When the church grew in the first century, those outside complained and conspired against it yet it still grew:


Acts 4:1 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them,2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.


Even when people outside the church or even people from with in the church try put down or discourage you from being involved in works of the church or what to prevent you from reaching the lost, we need to have the same attitude that Peter and John had when the opposing Jews tried to make them stop preaching the Christ as we read in:


Acts 4:14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,16 saying, "What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.17 "But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name."18 And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.20 "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."


No matter how much criticism you may receive for doing the right thing or for doing what God has asked you to do, do not every let criticism keep you from doing the will of the Father. Yes, harsh and threatening words can be discouraging, we can always know that our God is worth it and can help us to overcome the power of criticism.


We have learned a lot about the nature of criticism and why some people love to criticize. I hope you will join us next week as take a closer look a criticism.