The Nature of Criticism

Text: Judges 7:19-8:3 

I.         It is hard to do much of anything without running into someone complaining about it.

            A.        Clem Thurman tells this story: “When 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 wasn’t a problem to me, because I was far away from his heels. 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, ‘He’s not trying to hurt you. He just kicks so he won’t have to pull.’ 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 Lord’s 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.”

            B.        Let’s examine the nature of criticism.

II.        Why people criticize

            A.        Some criticize because they want a share of the glory

                        1.         Judges 8:1 - Gideon just routed the Midianite army with only 300 men. Instead of rejoicing that God had given Israel victory, the Ephriamites complained that they didn’t get a share of the battle.

                        2.         I often notice that these same people rarely complain if they couldn’t share in the defeat.

            B.        Some are critical of any change

                        1.         Acts 11:1-3 - Peter just witnessed the bringing of the first Gentile into the Church. Instead of rejoicing that God had brought salvation to all nations, the complainers focused on the fact that these people were not Jews.

                        2.         Change means work on my part. In this case, the complainers would have to re-examine their beliefs and prejudices. A fundamental change in their beliefs would have to change. Some people just don’t take change well.

                        3.         Judges 6:30-31 - Gideon tore down the alters to Baal; a right and proper thing to do. Still the people complained.

            C.        Some criticize because they don’t like the discomfort in between

                        1.         Have you noticed that most changes require some discomfort before you get to the better state?

                        2.         Exodus 17:1-3 - To leave slavery in Egypt to freedom in their own land, the Israelites had to travel through some rough territory. Some did not think the suffering was worth the reward.

            D.        Some people turn to criticism when they don’t have any control

                        1.         Isaiaha 45:9-10 - God is in control, what right do we have to be critical.

                        2.         Some turn on others to blame for their problems. “Well, I didn’t ask to be born in this family.”

            E.        Some people criticize because they are not involved

                        1.         Nehemiah 4:1-3 - Sanballat and Tobiah did not want Jerusalem rebuilt. They did not help with the work. Yet, they stood by and criticized their efforts.

                                    a.         You can’t do it, you’ve been defeated before. You’re too weak.

                                    b.         It will take too long.

                                    c.         You don’t have the right material.

                                    d.         You don’t know what you are doing

                                    e.         It won’t last

                        2.         Churches that are active, with plans and programs to reach out to the lost with the gospel will be criticized.

                                    a.         The criticism will come from those who won’t work in any program that is set forth.

                                    b.         When the church grew, those outside complained and conspired against it. And yet it still grew - Acts 4:25

III.       Things to do to take the wind out of criticism

            A.        II Corinthians 8:16-21 - The collection for the saints in Jerusalem was delivered by Paul, but with representatives from the churches going with him.

                        1.         It is not that the churches did not trust Paul

                        2.         Rather, Paul was planning in advance that there would be critics. He headed off the complaints before they even formed.

            B.        Genesis 43:9 - Jacob and his family were running out of food. Jacob wanted to send his boys down for more grain, but they reminded him that they had to bring Benjamin with them. Jacob was too afraid to let him go.

                        1.         Judah was willing to take the risk. He was willing to bear the blame.

                        2.         Sometimes we let the complainers stop us. We don’t want to hear the “I told you so” if it doesn’t work.

                        3.         Sometimes we have to move on, despite the complaints.

            C.        Leave things in God’s hands - Psalms 35:1-2

                        1.         With God on our side, who can withstand? - Isaiah 50:8-9

            D.        Above all, don’t stop!

                        1.         If it is right, good, and justified in the sight of God, then keep on going!

IV.      Advise for the critical

            A.        Don’t criticize that which doesn’t harm you - Proverbs 3:30

                        1.         It may not be the way you would do things, but does that make a difference?

            B.        Don’t be quick to criticize when you don’t understand the consequences - Proverbs 25:8

            C.        Don’t make criticism a public matter - Proverbs 25:9-10

V.        Before criticizing, first earn the right to complain

            A.        R. L. James stated once, “Have you ever noticed that the members of the church who attend the fewest services know the least about the Bible? They gripe the most, kick the most, work the least, and stand the least chance of getting to heaven.”

            B.        The eldership in one congregation came up with a “License to Complain” form.

                        1.         It is interesting to note that the church reported no license were issued. Those who applied were not qualified and those who qualified did not apply.

License to Complain

To qualify, the applicant must certify:


      I attend all regular and special worship services of the church, expecting a blessing from each experience.

      I pray each day for fellow members of the congregation, the preacher, each officer and leader that they may be strengthened and guided.

      I see that my children take part in all activities for them in the church.

      I volunteer for, gladly accept, and enthusiastically carry out responsibilities in the church.

      I visit the sick and the shut-ins and help in evangelistic calling on prospective members.

      I regularly and systematically give of my income to the congregation, always praying for God’s help in making me aware of my financial obligations.

      I firmly believe others in the congregation are motivated by good will in their relationship to and actions towards me and I interpret them that way even as I anticipate their love and understanding of me.

Signature of Applicant ____________________________________________ Date __________

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