Related Verses: Proverbs 10:19- When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
Philippians 2:14-15 Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.
James 4:1-2 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it.
Psalm 31:20 Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of toungues.
The spirit has spoken comfort to me many times over the years to protect me from untrue criticism, gossip and the like.
There is, of course, an appropriate time to criticize. But it requires an appropriate process in order to accomplish something positive for God. If true criticism is leveled in the wrong way, then it will do much harm, separate relationships and make it difficult to reconcile. I have made this mistake and it has cost me dearly. We must be able to deliver our comments in the spirit of meekness and in a helpful posture. Otherwise, we are speaking out of hurt, concern, self-desire and the flesh.
As a protection from this trap, ask yourself these questions before passing a judgment or criticism on someone else. Although it says in 1 Cor. 2:15 that the spiritual man judges all things, we have to admit that in many cases we are not that spiritual.
What is my main reason/motive for giving the criticism (1 Cor. 4:5)? Is it to help others or to gain something for yourself? Is the spirit of Phil. 2:3 the overriding spirit with which you are approaching the conversation? Phil. 2:20-21 shows us a young brother who has proven his heart right in dealing with people. Read the passage and take note why he is right in his person to Paul.
Do I sense a prompting from God or is my flesh upset about something? One safeguard is to learn to ask questions of others to further verify what you are sensing might be a problem. Let the questions be your instructor, or express a biblical principle that is being violated in a gentle and concerned manner. If you threaten some action if others do not change, then your impure motives are exposed.
Have I been holding something against the person to whom I’ve leveled the criticism? A good example of this is in 2 Samuel 16: 5-12 where Shimei takes advantage of an opportunity to curse the hurting King David as he’s fleeing from his son Absolom (The probable cause for Shimei’s displeasure against David is that he’s a relative of Saul, who David took over for…Shimei probably lost some royal privileges in the process). Shimei comes to his senses when David prevails and is the first to repent when the King returns back on the scene, but ultimately he costs him his life (David never forgets what happened and gives Solomon instructions to take “Care” of Shimei at the end of his life)
Is the Kingdom being helped or hurt by the criticism? (Ephesians 4:29-32 with an emphasis on verse 29. God has used this verse over and over in my life to help me change, by his grace)
Has a biblical principle been violated or just a conviction? For example, if it is your conviction that it is wrong to watch movies, do you criticize others who watch movies? This is a biblical conviction, not a principle. However if the movie is rated X, a principle is violated, because it is very immoral and unhealthy to put those things into your mind.
Do you see a pattern of wrongdoing or weakness that has not changed or improved over time? Or are you jumping to a criticism after only one or two instances? All of us have weak moments where we blow it, but a weak character is something totally different. A weak character in a particular area will manifest itself with surprising repetition.
Finally, have you first prayerfully approached the Lord with your concern and interceded for that individual? If not, there is a good chance that you have little compassion or understanding as to the real nature of the problem. Also as was mentioned, it is healthy to question a person to draw out their real motives, rather than what you think is their motives.
Have you applied the 1Cor. 13 test to your criticism? Ultimately God holds us accountable to his greatest command- To love him and your neighbor as yourself. Is your criticism loving? How so, what is your loving goal in dispensing it?
If you have made it past these biblical filters, you are ready to gently and graciously apply some critical comments. There are exceptions to this, where God may have you level a pretty stern criticism. But you would have proved yourself trustworthy with the gentler version first.