“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
(Matthew 7:3, ESV)
I once read a fable by the famous Greek writer Aesop that goes something like this: One day, a grandfather walked along a rode while his grandson rode a donkey. But some people said, “Would you look at that old man suffering on his feet while that strong, young boy who is totally capable of walking sits on that donkey?” Upon hearing this, the grandfather switched places and began to ride the donkey while the boy walked. Now, he heard people saying “Would you look at that? A grown man taking advantage of that little boy. Can you believe it?” Next, the grandfather and the grandson both rode the donkey. Then the crowd started saying, “Would you look at those heavy brutes making that poor donkey suffer?” So, they both got off and walked until they heard some people say, “How pitiful. A perfectly good donkey not being used!” The final scene of the fable describes the grandson and the grandfather staggering along as they both carry the donkey.
I love this story because it humorously reveals how prone we all are to quickly criticize others. Because of our inherited sin nature…
We like to use a telescope to look at our sin and a microscope to look at the sins of others.
In Matthew 7, Jesus isn’t saying we should avoid discerning and correcting the sins of others. The Scriptures clearly teach that Lord wants us to be discerning (Eph. 5:10; Phil. 1:9-10) and to lovingly correct repeated sin we see in fellow believers (Col. 3:16; 1 Th. 5:14). Instead, these verses urge us to avoid having a critical spirit by criticize ourselves first (vs. 5) and using the same measuring stick (vs. 2; i.e. God’s Word) if we have to criticize others.
Someone has a critical spirit when they dwell upon the perceived weaknesses of another with no grace, impartiality or good intention. A critical spirit is a fruit of pride born out of the sin nature that lies within all of our hearts. This is something the Lord has been convicting me about lately in my own walk with Him. Here are a few insights He has been teaching me.
DANGERS OF HAVING A CRITICAL SPIRIT
Jesus warns us about this subversive sin because people with a critical spirit tend to…
- Resist receiving any loving correction themselves (Pr. 12:15; 15:32)
- Make their own strengths a universal standard while ignoring their own weaknesses
- Make their own opinions the standard by which others should live while diminishing the authority of Scripture
- Struggle to build trust in relationships and enjoy them because they are constantly disappointed by everybody else falling short of their internal expectations
- Make everything a major instead of “majoring on the majors and minoring on the minors”. (Mt. 23:24)
Perhaps the scariest part about having a critical spirit is that it reveals our desire to be God. Like God, we either want to SET or BE the standard by which everyone else is measured.
TIPS FOR REMOVING YOUR LOG
Because having a critical spirit is so dangerous, here are some practical tips on how to keep yours in check.
1. Focus on growing your own weaknesses. The famous 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody once said “I’m having so much trouble with D.L. Moody that I don’t have time to find fault with the other fellow.”
2. Focus on learning from the strengths of others. The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn from him.”
3. Pray for the perceived weaknesses of others. If the Lord has shown you a weakness or a sin pattern in another person, He is calling you to pray for them first…not criticize them. Chances are, they are aware of their own flaws and would appreciate your prayers.
4. Remember the grace God has shown you. The Apostle Paul often cited in his writing the impact that God’s grace had upon him. This was only possible because he had grasped the height of his own sin which then enabled him to grasp the depth of God’s grace. (Eph. 3:8; 1 Ti. 1:14)
We demonstrate humility, build healthier relationships and appreciate God’s grace when we put down our microscopes and pick up a mirror. If we can demonstrate that we’re working on removing our logs perhaps others will let us help them with their specks.