I remember watching an episode of The Simpsons where Homer Simpson was harshly critiquing his neighbor’s coaching skills. Upon hearing this, his wife Marge told him, “Homer, it’s very easy to criticize.” Homer replied, “Fun too!”
Sure, the Simpsons are not exactly a family teeming with Christian values, but aren’t we also quick to point out another’s flaws? As we discussed last week, some people will stop at nothing to cause a neighbor to stumble, so long as it makes them look better on the outside. If I criticize someone’s athleticism, for example, does that make me a better athlete? Of course not!
James refers to our tongue as “a fire.” He also instructed us, “don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” (5:9). Constructive criticism is fine, but maliciously tearing someone down is not. Can you imagine Jesus saying to one of his disciples, “Wow, that Peter is so selfish. I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him.”
Yes, it’s easy to criticize. The Bible is full of people who were flawed, some severely. With the exception of Christ himself, we can throw stones at everyone in Scripture. But how will that possibly edify us? Similarly, we are encouraged to accept others in our lives. We don’t have to be great friends with everyone we meet or even get along well with all of God’s creatures, but the reality is clear: life is infinitely better when we concentrate not on what needs to be changed in the world, rather what needs to be changed in ourselves and our attitudes.
This is not a complex process. I promise there is a bit of “good” in your sworn enemy, and a bit of “bad” in your best friend (good and bad are in quotations because we all have different definitions of those terms). Good luck finding a perfect person. Someone you cannot criticize. In the meantime, be careful what you say or think about a child of God. That man we condemn is God’s handiwork. That woman you personally attack is someone’s mother and/or wife.
And if you ever do find that perfect person, please let me know!
In His Name,