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Dealing with Our Critical Spirits

Inside: Our discussion today is about when we have a critical or judgmental spirit against others, and I’m specifically talking about when it is against our brothers and sisters in the faith.

I'm addressing when we have a critical or judgmental spirit against others and I'm specifically talking when it is against our brothers and sisters in the faith. @mferrell

1 Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 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? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5

I’m going to cross into a sensitive area, but I am hoping you will read the entire post and ponder some of what I’m sharing today. This is an area that has been on my heart to write about partly because I am convicted by it when I see this sin in my life but also because I know the damage it can do in our churches and amidst our relationship with other Christians.  I have also been the victim of it.

Usually the people who see everything wrong in somebody else’s life see absolutely nothing wrong in their own life. And the only gross, vile, wretched sin that never sees anything wrong in its own life is what? Self-righteousness. And that’s what the plank is. As long as you’re self-righteous, as long as you’re spiritually proud, as long as you set yourself up as a judge, you can’t help anybody out with any sin.

~John MacArthur

Our discussion today is about when we have a critical or judgmental spirit against others, and I’m specifically talking about when it is against our brothers and sisters in the faith.

The Matthew text above is to be taken in context as coming after the Sermon on the Mount, which contrasted the behavior between the Pharisees and that of followers of Christ:

-The Pharisees were proud, and the Lord calls us to be humble.

-The Pharisees denied the Word of God and made up their own rules; God’s Word is our only standard of truth.

The Pharisee’s obedience was external, and Christ calls for our obedience to be internal, from the heart.

-The Pharisees were focused on materials and possessions, and we are called to be focused on the kingdom.

The Pharisee's obedience was external, and Christ calls for our obedience to be internal, from the heart. Click to Tweet

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

When the Pharisees set up their own system of rules and morality, they could now become the judge and jury. I know how often we hear the term “don’t judge,” and I am going to tell you that it is many times (okay, most times) taken out of context. We do have absolutes in scripture. Theology and doctrine are important, so there are times when we rightly need to judge, but I’m talking about the times when we become those self-righteous Pharisees and find ourselves judging not because of sin but because it doesn’t fit with our personal preferences.

It’s the judgments on things like personality, character, how they live, where they live, how they dress, how long their hair is, what kind of car they drive, where they shop, what kind of food they eat, etc., etc. When we judge motives, we can’t see the many other items that our prideful, self-righteous hearts are drawn to just so we can be lifted up and others can be looked down upon; we are no longer loving our brother.

Let me be clear; this is not overlooking sin in a person’s life.  When you see the sin that needs to be addressed in a fellow believer’s life, it is not loving them if you don’t address it. The most loving thing you can do when you see sin is to speak to them about it because you do love them. You are literally “hating” your brother if you allow them to walk down that path of sin without lovingly calling them on it.

When addressing sin in another person’s life, make sure you have searched your own heart and taken the log out of your own eye. Dealing with a sin issue in someone’s life still needs to be done in a loving and Christ-honoring way. It still cannot be done with a criticizing spirit.

Your Standard is Not Everyone’s Standard

Many times we can find ourselves determining others are wrong or not as spiritual or as mature as us in their faith, and we base it on looking at their lifestyles and choices against our choices. When we do this, we have just taken God off of His throne and put ourselves on the throne.

The way we live and many of the choices we make are determined because of our faith in Christ, but many other choices we make are personal preferences.

What would your perfect standard look like? Farm living or city living? Homeschool, private school, Christian school, or public school? Skirts or pants? Long or short hair? Birth in a hospital or home birth? Natural medicine or conventional medicine? Big or small church? Family integrated church or separate services for various ages? Bake your own bread or buy bread? Big house or small house? Home garden or farmer’s market? Suburban or Minivan? Classical music or country? Large family, medium or small family? Movies or no movies? TV or no TV? Working mom or stay-at-home mom or work-from-home mom? And the list goes on and on.

See, here is what I want to get across.  It is not wrong to have strong opinions and live your life in the way the Lord has called your family to, but it becomes a problem when we put our standards on other families and judge them because they are not doing it our way.  The problem is a problem because we see our way as the only right way.  When we judge and criticize wrongly- you know what – we’re in sin.

We’ve just become those self-righteous Pharisees – not pretty.

Don’t Raise a Pharisee

Another danger I want to address when we begin to set up our lifestyle and choices as the only right one is what that does to our children. We are going to raise little Pharisees.  They are going to focus on the external instead of the internal. When we judge others outwardly by appearances and our personal preferences, we never get to see into their hearts. This judgmental, critical attitude will carry over to our children.

It is so important to not just hang around people that are just like us. Take the time to know other believers that think differently than you and live differently than you.  Learn about Christians in other countries and how they live. Express your opinions but do it with a loving attitude, and you may even have a change of mind in an area you feel strongly on. The Lord has softened my heart over the years in many areas that I used to think about very legalistically. My standard used to have to be everyone’s standard. Not fun and not pretty, but I can give thanks to the Lord for opening my eyes to the beautiful diversity we have in the body of Christ.

Loving Each Other

May we give thanks to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who forgives us and offers us great mercy for all the times we judge and criticize wrongly. Let’s pray that He will continue to open our eyes to sinful, wrongful judging and criticizing of others. Pray that our prideful, self-righteous attitudes will be torn down, and He will continue to mold us more and more into His likeness.  May we be praying to be humble, tenderhearted, kind, and loving toward others.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

~ John 13:35

Ladies, if we could get this right, imagine the changes in our homes and families, and churches.

May they know we are Christians because of our love for each other. 

“(Jesus) Says that our own condition is such that we are quite incapable of helping others. We affect to be very concerned about these people and their faults, and we try to give the impression that we are concerned only about their good. We say that we are troubled about this little blemish that is in them and that we are anxious to get rid of this mote. But, says our Lord, you cannot do it, because it is such a delicate process. This beam that is in your own eye makes you incapable of doing so.”

~ Martin Lloyd Jones,  Studies in the Sermon on the Mount




  1. Thank you for this article. I would also add that raising children in this environment might not only cause them to become “little Pharisees”, but might have the opposite effect of pushing them away due to the hypocrisy and constant criticism they see and hear. I grew up in an environment like that, along with my four brothers, and today two of them are no longer in the faith. The remaining children are still Christians, but we keep a distance (especially emotionally) from our parents. This is very close to my heart, because I see the effects it has had in my life, and I want to be really careful going forward in the future.

    We were a preacher’s family. Because that was the environment we grew up in, we learned that there is really no safe space -a place to grow, stumble, hurt, and learn, a place where we could just be real in- neither with our parents nor the church. We always had to be perfectly behaved so people wouldn’t criticize, or get it from our parents so they wouldn’t criticize. I say that I spent the first half of my life trying to behave just so people would like me, then the other half behaving properly just so they would stay off my back and leave me alone. As a result, the place where I did find acceptance and safety also resulted in my becoming a single mom – ostracizing me even more from family and the church.

    I recently realized that my faith isn’t really “faith”- it’s based on behavior, not my heart. And I always feel like I am never good enough for God. But at this point, however, I am really not sure that He is someone I want to know, or even “give my heart” to, as it is so damaged and bruised and toughened up, and experiences I have had with my image of Him and His people have not been good. It’s not His fault, I know, and I am NOT blaming Him, or any other person, for that matter, for my sin. It is my responsibility, and mine alone.

    However, I express these things to say that it is SO important, and this message is sorely needed because of the effects it can have on your family, especially little ones. And I am very thankful that this topic had been addressed, because I think we tend to overlook this area or simply not deal with it because it is too personal. Trust me, I find myself having to do a little heart surgery too, after reading this. But I wanted to share my experiences as an awareness of the impact of this kind of attitude and behavior.

    Thank you for posting this and allowing me to share my thoughts!

  2. Sharon Rose says:

    Recently, I have received criticism from two people when they found out that I attend three churches in one week. I actually thought something might be wrong with me doing that, but I get a big blessing out of it. When you wrote, “My standards are not everybody’s standards,” I had to smile. I was brought up to believe that all Christian should have the same standards about music and dancing. Big surprise to me when I went out into the wide world of Christian young people who had different standards for music and dancing, yet walked in close communion with the Lord.

  3. Leah Renée says:

    Preach preach preach.

    Isn’t it kinda sad (and embarrassing) to have to forewarn that it’s a “sensitive” area?

    Our Body doesn’t want to do the hard work.
    We want the fluff pieces thinking that God being gentle is what we need in difficult times because we *feel* badly…but we don’t realize that when the Holy Spirit is correcting and we DO the hard work, we are lifted out of that bondage!!!

    We need a wakeup call.

    May God bless you with more wake-up-juice to share!
    We need refined and sharpened by that iron!


  4. What a great article. I love how God’s timing is always so perfect. Our family has just left a church that we have been attending faithfully for over eight months for this very reason. We have been the recipients of this type of behavior. Your article has also convicted me and reminded me of situations where I behaved in less than a stellar manner. I believe this is a daily struggle in the life of a Christian.

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