Thursday, August 22, 2013

Faith Walk: Everyone's Critic

 We often have discussions around our dinner table about what is "yummy" and what is not.  It often goes something like this,

"I do NOT like tuna (or whatever we're having)."

"I can't believe you don't like tuna.  It's GOOD!"

"It's gross."

"It is not!  It's good!...Why don't you like it, anyway?  I think it's yummy!"

"You're just weird."

"Daddy" and I usually put a quick stop to the argument by reminding the kids that each one of them is allowed to have their own opinion.  No one's opinion is wrong, but it must be expressed with kindness and respect for whoever prepared the meal.

After all, expressing your opinion is a basic human right, isn't it?

I've been focusing this week on Ephesians 4:29.  The NIV states it like this: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

I use that verse with my kids A LOT, reminding them that they need to say nice things TO and ABOUT their siblings.  And the NLT says "don't use foul or abusive language..." so it is the perfect verse to address the issue of using curse words.

But today I'm thinking about how it applies to adults.  Specifically Christians.

I want to zoom in on the part of the verse that tells us to use our words in ways that are "helpful for building others up according to their needs, that they may benefit those who listen."

How often do we pause long enough to consider whether our words will benefit the person we're talking to?  Do we think about the influence we'll have on them, or are we just trying to spout our opinion?  Or maybe we are trying to sway them into agreement with us.  But why?  So that our opinion will be validated?  So that we'll have more people on "our side?"  Are we trying to manipulate or control a situation or make ourselves look better?  Or are we sincerely concerned with the needs of our listener?

I guess what I'm thinking about today is the way we Christians like to criticize, especially when it comes to the church and its ministries.  We invest ourselves in our churches -- which is good! -- but then for some reason we begin to feel a sense of entitlement concerning how things are done.  Instead of sharing our thoughts and ideas in a constructive and appropriate way, we begin to talk.  To complain.  And while our words may not be foul or abusive, they are also NOT wholesome.

We say things like, "Well, if it was up to me, I'd do it this way..."

Or, "I just wish they would do it like this..."

"What they should be doing...'

Criticism is such a dangerous weapon, but very seldom do we wield it with skill.  In the appropriate setting, constructive criticism can be quite helpful and can be a necessary catalyst to make a ministry grow.  Usually, though, constructive criticism is solicited.  How often are our opinions solicited, and how often do we offer them freely to whomever will listen?

This is the danger: when you offer your critical opinion at will, you are shaping the thoughts and opinions of your listener about whatever or whoever it is you're criticizing.  Sure, you are gaining followers for your way of thinking, but you are undermining the leadership of the ministry and you are creating a huge roadblock for that ministry!  

And consider this, what if by voicing your negative opinion, you are casting doubt into the mind of your listener?  What if you are actually hindering their faith?  What if your unsolicited criticism -- your gossiping tongue -- actually becomes a stumbling block for another person who is seeking after the Lord?

Read these words of Jesus in Matthew 18:6-7 -- "If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!"

It has been ingrained in us to share our opinion about everything, from our government to our favorite songs on Sunday morning.  As Christ followers, we have to surrender this worldly "right!"  

Philippians 2:3-4 reminds us, "Do nothing out of selfish ambitions or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."   

When we choose to submit to the Lord, we choose to surrender our own way of thinking and we take on the thoughts and attitude of Christ (Philippians 2:5).  Sure, we'll still have our opinions about things, but we must hold those against God's Word to discern whether they ARE merely opinions, or whether they are Truths spelled out in the Scripture.  And THEN we have to discern whether they -- and our attitudes behind them -- are worthy of being spoken. Finally, we must consider who our audience is and what effect our words will have on them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we've got to guard our words carefully.  We must be obedient to the instruction to use them only to help build up others.  Yes, sometimes that means offering constructive criticism, but in no way does that give us the freedom to voice our opinion freely.  We must surrender our need to feel important, to sway others to our own way of thinking and choose instead to use our words to encourage those around us.

"Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift." -- Ephesians 4:29, The Message

1 comment:

  1. love your blog can always relate


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