Forgotten Critics

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I have never had any interest in what movie or music critics say. I think most people feel the same way. We know what we like or don’t like. In the end, who cares about what they say? Who remembers them? You can name songs and films you enjoy, but who can name even one of the professional critics?

Shimei and Sanballat are not the most well-known names in the Bible. But the men they criticized are. Shimei cursed David and threw rocks at him during one of the lowest points in his life (2 Sam. 16:5-8). Sanballat made fun of Nehemiah and the Jews who were rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem (Neh. 4:1-5). David and Nehemiah are remembered with honor, but these naysayers are recalled with disgust.

Judas Iscariot criticized Mary for anointing Jesus with expensive ointment (John 12:1-7). He said this was a waste because she could have sold that ointment and the money could have been used to help the poor. He wasn’t interested in helping the poor; he had other intentions (v. 6). But the sad part is that other disciples followed his lead and joined in the criticism. They were indignant toward her and “criticized her sharply” (Mark 14:5). But Jesus told them plainly, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me” (Mark 14:6). This was not one of the apostles’ memorable moments. But Jesus said that the deed they criticized would be remembered throughout the whole world (Mark 14:9).

If critics would spend their time and energy building up and encouraging good things instead of finding fault and hindering, they could accomplish a great deal. But what do they accomplish? How can they accomplish anything? They are too busy criticizing those who get the job done. They don’t have the initiative or the courage to do it themselves, so they try to tear down those who do to make themselves feel better about their lack of interest.

Unjust criticism comes from the heart. It is a habit, a terrible and destructive habit both to the critic and those he criticizes. “He who has a deceitful heart finds no good, and he who has a perverse tongue falls into evil” (Prov. 17:20). It takes a lot of effort for some people to say anything positive or complimentary. That is tragic in a home or in a congregation. How are these people remembered? Not much.

There is a place for righteous judgment (John 7:24). Jesus rightly censured five of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. But even then He complimented four of those five for things they were doing right.

There is no excuse, however, for a hypercritical spirit. That is what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1).

Instead, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6). Just as harsh criticism starts in the heart, encouraging words come from the right kind of thinking. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8).

Kerry Duke
West End church of Christ
Livingston, TN

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