I just spent the last several minutes looking for the spiritual gift of criticism. I pawed through the longish lists of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and 12:28-31 and in Romans 12:3-8, surveyed Ephesians 4:11-12 and 1 Peter 4:10-11, and consulted Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. I found no such gift, no such ministry, no such God appointed job.
What I did find were a couple of passages that encourage us to shift from an attitude that scans our experiences, our church, our families, our leaders’ decisions, our world for bad things, for problems and troubles to an attitude that looks for blessings and reasons to praise God.
The Apostle Paul, himself experiencing the indignities and depravations of imprisonment for his faith, writing to the Philippian believers who themselves faced a ‘boatload’ of difficulties, penned:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)
Notice that the author of half of the New Testament advises them to speak aloud their joy in the Lord Jesus, to meet everyone with a gentle (not critical) spirit, to act in confidence in God’s goodness in Christ Jesus by asking Him to fix what isn’t right, to shift to the expression of gratitude in all things. Such a shift is only possible to a heart that knows God’s love in Christ Jesus. Could we say that a critical spirit is sub-Christian? An attitude that Jesus would crucify so that the new life of the Spirit of encouragement and spoken blessing take root?
To Ephesian Christians, the Apostle urged an attitude of gratitude that transforms their speech from criticism to encouragement. He wrote:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionateto one another. (Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV)
Again, the Apostle urges silence rather than criticism. Or better than silence, words that build others up. The benefit of the other becomes the goal. We are to strive for words and actions of kindness and compassion issuing from a heart held by the grip of God’s love.
Let’s ask God to transform our speech and actions and adopt an attitude of gratitude.