Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10 NIV)
Some criticisms are nonsensical.
Perhaps you heard the recent story of a lifeguard who was fired for helping save a life. It turns out he disobeyed company policy by responding to a need outside of his watch. I think most us can understand why such a policy would exist. If lifeguards had no parameters for their service, lives could be lost when they were not where they needed to be. But in this case, it was discovered the lifeguard in question did not leave his assignment abandoned, and upon further review the company offered to rehire him.
Sometimes a little research will exonerate good people. And in the end we are reminded how important it is to give people who have proved to be trustworthy the benefit of the doubt.
It is obvious to me, the apostle Paul had been the victim of criticism. His work with the Gentiles had produced some deep and meaningful relationships, but also created some vicious enemies.
When we disagree with others, it is common to judge their motives. After all, there must be some selfish reason behind their insistence on doing something we don’t like. Therefore, it appears there were those who were suggesting Paul’s was ignoring Old Testament ceremonial regulations to win a popularity contest with the Gentiles.
Paul’s answer struck this nonsensical note: “If I wanted to please men, do you think I would be a servant of Christ? Do you think I would allow myself to be beaten, imprisoned, mocked, hunted and…criticized?” (My paraphrase) Of course not…
Criticism has many causes and kinds. We call some criticism “constructive” when it attempts to make people or the things they do better. I am thankful for constructive criticism in my life. In fact, over the years I have learned to embrace and even yearn for it. I still get defensive at times (especially when I know I am right), but more and more I look forward to the advice and input of people I respect who care about me.
But some criticism is born out of jealousy, greed, resentment and a host of other heart issues. If someone has what we want, we tear them down with criticism. If they don’t give us what we want, we seek to eliminate them as obstacles through gossip and slander. More than one good person has been destroyed for saying “no” to someone or something he believed in his heart to be wrong.
Jesus once said before we pick the speck out of our brother’s eye we should remove the beam from our own. I have noticed some people interpret this to mean once they think the beam has been removed they have the “all clear” to start picking. I don’t think this is Jesus’ point. I think His point is, “it is always easier to tear down what we don’t like than it is to be honest about why we don’t like it, and whether we are justified in our perspective.
Have a critical mind, but not a critical heart. If you aren’t careful, in the heat of the moment you might destroy a faithful servant of Christ. And I feel sure that is a bad thing.
Dear God, help me give people credit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.