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Criticism

 

In these days of political candidates’ campaigns, we hear many examples of one of the greatest faults of modern man: His tendency to criticize. Of course there is much in our modern world worthy of criticism. Even scripture is prone to criticize evils, so criticism is not always evil but it should be constructive, not destructive.

Today I want to discuss criticism. To do so, we are going to go through God’s word, identify examples of criticism, and comment on each example. As we do, try to associate these examples to your own use of or reaction to criticism.

(Num 23:5,8 NKJV) Then the LORD put a word in Balaam's mouth, and said, "Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak." . . . .{8} "How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced?

Is this our approach toward criticism? Before criticizing what someone does or says, do we consider whether God has criticized them for what they do, then act accordingly?

(1 Sam 2:22-25 NKJV) Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. {23} So he said to them, "Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. {24} "No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the Lord's people transgress. {25} "If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?"

 

Eli, the Priest, was aware that the conduct of his family reflected on God by being bad examples to the people. Indeed, who will intercede when we sin against God? But the point for this sermon is that Eli did criticize his sons, but notice how he did it as a tactfully structured instruction. But his sons still refused their father’s criticism.

(Job 6:24-25 NKJV) "Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; Cause me to understand wherein I have erred. {25} How forceful are right words! But what does your arguing prove?

[Teach me] Show me where I am mistaken. Bring proper arguments to convince me of my errors, and you will soon find that I shall gladly receive your counsels, and abandon the errors of which I may be convicted.

[How forcible are right words! But what does your arguing disprove what I say?]

[How forcible are right words: A well-constructed argument, that has truth for its basis, is irresistible.]

(Prov 15:32 NKJV) He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.

We help ourselves by being open to criticism. Rejection of criticism only hurts ourselves.

(Job 11:2-3 NKJV) "Should not the multitude of words be answered? And should a man full of talk be vindicated? {3} Should your empty talk make men hold their peace? And when you mock, should no one rebuke you?

He who speaks much should also hear much in turn; otherwise the fine speaker full of talk, (G2980) thinks himself just.

Mocking deserves rebuke.

(Job 16:1-5 NKJV) Then Job answered and said: {2} "I have heard many such things; Miserable comforters are you all! {3} Shall words of wind have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? {4} I also could speak as you do, If your soul [body] were in my soul's [body’s] place, I could heap up words against you, And shake my head at you; {5} But I would strengthen you with my mouth, And the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief.

Here are some more correct responses to criticism:

(Job 18:2 NKJV) "How long till you put an end to words? Gain understanding, and afterward we will speak.

Job was accused of speaking endlessly but not speaking sensibly. His listeners would then speak with him.

Job 19:2 NKJV) "How long will you torment my soul [being], And break me in pieces with words?

How long will ye vex me, and crush me with your words? This is verbal persecution.

(Job 19:4 NKJV) And if indeed I have erred, My error remains with me.

And if I have really erred, My error rests with myself. He’s admitting possible error.

(Job 20:2-3 NKJV) "Therefore my anxious thoughts make me answer, Because of the turmoil within me. {3} I have heard the rebuke that reproaches me, And the spirit of my understanding causes me to answer.

Zophar, Job’s former close friend, was upset by Job’s criticism. He stated, “I reply on account of the agitation of my soul, which will admit of no delay." Zophar’s heart was full, and he hastened to give vent to his feelings in impassioned and earnest language.

(Job 21:3 NKJV) Bear with me that I may speak, And after I have spoken, keep mocking.

He says “Allow me to speak without interruption, or bear with me while I freely express my sentiments- is all that I now ask. Resume your reproaches, if you will, when I am done. I ask only the privilege of expressing my thoughts on a very important point, and when that is done, I will allow you to resume your remarks as you have done before, and you may utter your sentiments without interruption.” He’s tantalizing critics.

(Job 34:7 NKJV) What man is like Job, Who drinks scorn like water,

The idea is, that he was full of reproachful speeches respecting God; in the language of irreverence and rebellion. He indulged in it as freely as a man drinks water; gathers up and imbibes all the language of reproach that he can find, and indulges in it as if it were perfectly harmless. Job had thick skin.

(Job 40:1-4 NKJV) Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said: {2} "Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it." {3} Then Job answered the LORD and said: {4} "Behold, I am vile; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth.

Job criticizes God. The LORD then asks Job if he has the right to correct God. Job, realizing what he has done, repents with the words, “Behold, I am vile; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth.” It is a story of the Faultfinder versus the Almighty. The lesson to be learned is that even if one does not understand or agree with the one who is over you, one must not criticize God or probably, anyone who is over you. Asking questions is always better than criticism.

(Psa 50:19-21 NKJV) You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit. {20} You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother's son. {21} These things you have done, and I (i.e. the I Am) kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you, And set them in order before your eyes.

Do we criticize family members? There’s an unhealthy reward for that.

(Psa 52:1-5 NKJV) Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually. {2} Your tongue devises destruction, Like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. {3} You love evil more than good, Lying rather than speaking righteousness. Selah {4} You love all devouring words, You deceitful tongue. {5} God shall likewise destroy you forever; He shall take you away, and pluck you out of your dwelling place, And uproot you from the land of the living. Selah

The razor sharp tongue. “Lashon Hara” = “The Evil Tongue” This we must avoid.

(Psa 105:15 NKJV) Saying, "Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm."

God, in His goodness to His people will destroy the destroyer. He is our protector.

(Psa 119:165 NKJV) Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble.

Avoid criticism. However, the waves of trouble beat on them from without like a sea-washed lighthouse.

(Psa 140:1-3 NKJV) Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; Preserve me from violent men, {2} Who plan evil things in their hearts; They continually gather together for war. {3} They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; The poison of asps is under their lips. Selah

Evil men plan evil things and have the tongues of serpents.

(Psa 141:5 NKJV) Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.

We should accept, even welcome, rebuke from the righteous..

(Prov 9:7-10 NKJV) "He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. {8} Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. {9} Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. {10} "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Give instruction to the wise man but do not attempt to correct those who are unable to take criticism.

(Prov 10:17-21 NKJV) He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, But he who refuses correction goes astray. {18} Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, And whoever spreads slander is a fool. {19} In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise. {20} The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; The heart of the wicked is worth little. {21} The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of wisdom.

Only verbally discipline those who are willing to be disciplined.

(Prov 11:11-13 NKJV) By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. {12} He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, But a man of understanding holds his peace. {13} A talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.

Be careful what you say to others. Be silent when others err.

(Prov 12:18 NKJV) There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health.

Avoid all cutting remarks. Be a considerate speaker.

(Prov 15:4-5 NKJV) A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, But perverseness in it breaks the spirit. {5} A fool despises his father's instruction, But he who receives correction is prudent.

Have a healing tongue, not a deceitful or rebellious tongue.

(Prov 18:21 NKJV) Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.

Word power is beneficial. Both life and death are in the tongue’s power.

(Prov 27:5-6 NKJV) Open rebuke is better Than love carefully concealed. {6} Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Better are the faithful wounds of a friend than the kisses of an enemy.

(Prov 27:9 NKJV) Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man's friend gives delight by hearty counsel.

A friend’s valued counsel is sweetness to the soul.

(Prov 28:23-24 NKJV) He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward Than he who flatters with the tongue. {24} Whoever robs his father or his mother, And says, "It is no transgression," The same is companion to a destroyer.

Rebuke is better than flattery. Don’t try to legitimize your sins.

(Prov 29:1 NKJV) He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

Stubbornly refusing criticism or instruction receives destruction with no way out..

(Eccl 7:21-22 NKJV) Also do not take to heart everything people say, Lest you hear your servant cursing you. {22} For many times, also, your own heart has known That even you have cursed others.

Secret words of disdain are better not heard.

(Jer 20:10 NKJV) For I heard many mocking: "Fear on every side!" "Report," they say, "and we will report it!" All my acquaintances watched for my stumbling, saying, "Perhaps he can be induced; Then we will prevail against him, And we will take our revenge on him."

Waiting for false friends to announce your failure, then resorting to revenge. These are tools of a politician.

(Amos 7:16 NKJV) Now therefore, hear the word of the LORD: You say, 'Do not prophesy against Israel, And do not spout against the house of Isaac.'

This explains the LORD’s dislike for strong preaching against Israel.

(Zec 3:1-2 NKJV) Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. {2} And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?"

Here we see Satan’s role as accuser and the LORD’s role as protector. .

(Mat 5:11 NKJV) "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

The blessings received by untruthful criticism of those preaching or living God’s word.

(Mat 7:1-5 NKJV) "Judge not, that you be not judged. {2} "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. {3} "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? {4} "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? {5} "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

This is hypocritically judging or criticizing others.

(Mat 11:18-19 NKJV) "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' {19} "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a wine-bibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children."

These are an example of the slander spoken against Jesus and John.

(Mat 12:1-8 NKJV) At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. {2} And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!" {3} But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: {4} "how he entered the house of God and ate the show-bread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? {5} "Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? {6} "Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. {7} "But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. {8} "For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

On Sabbath, Jesus was criticized for picking grain to eat. This was His reply.

(Matt 12:22-32 NKJV) Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. {23} And all the multitudes were amazed and said, "Could this be the Son of David?" {24} Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons." {25} But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. {26} "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? {27} "And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. {28} "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. {29} "Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. {30} "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. {31} "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. {32} "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

Jesus was criticized for casting out demons and here is His reply and warning about criticizing the Holy Spirit..

(Matt 21:23-27 NKJV) Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?" {24} But Jesus answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: {25} "The baptism of John; where was it from? From heaven or from men?" And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' {26} "But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet." {27} So they answered Jesus and said, "We do not know." And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

The perfect retort.

(Mark 14:53-62 NKJV) And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes. {54} But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire. {55} Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. {56} For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree. {57} Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, {58} "We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.'" {59} But not even then did their testimony agree. {60} And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, "Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?" {61} But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" {62} Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."

Response of Jesus to critics longing for someone’s, even His own, self-incrimination.

(Mat 27:39-44 NKJV) And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads {40} and saying, "You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross." {41} Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, {42} "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. {43} "He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'" {44} Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.

Jesus was even criticized on the cross by those having no inkling of His potential power.

There are more examples, especially in the New Testament, of how we should react to criticism and how we should tactfully criticize without offending others, but I think this sermon gives us plenty to work on.

[Sources used include Hebrew Roots publications, used with permission]

 

 

Sermon given by Wayne Bedwell

7 December 2013

 

 

 

Copyright 2013, Wayne Bedwell

 

 

 

 

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