Take care of you

 Have you ever found yourself getting kind of critical about the way another lives, the choices they make, or how they do this or that? I catch myself doing that on occasion - focusing on something I can 'zero in on' about another - because it takes YOUR eyes off of ME, if even for that moment in time. There was a time when one 'church-goer' was observed being critical of how they 'did church' down the road from their church. As time went on, there was a whole lot of criticism generated about the 'way they worship'. Believe it or not, the whole thing boiled down to where they bought their groceries! This story comes right out of scripture, my friends! During the time the Apostle Paul was teaching and mentoring new believers in Christ, one group of believers were super-critical of another just because they bought their food items from 'pagan' storekeepers. Another term you may be familiar with in 'church circles' is 'buying meat that had been offered to idols'. The one group believed the other was wrong because to be 'pure' one could not buy food items from those 'pagans' who may have a practice of offering the blood of the animal on a pagan altar. Goodness, we can sure be petty sometimes, can't we? They even criticized each other for the day of the week they worshipped, the days they considered to be 'holy days', and other such nonsense. What does criticism do? We think it points out how 'wrong' someone is, but in truth, it points out how petty we are.

Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture: “As I live and breathe,” God says, “every knee will bow before me;  Every tongue will tell the honest truth that I and only I am God.” So mind your own business. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God. (Romans 14:11-12)

Paul's got great advice for us - mind your own business! Take care of your own life before God - let God take care of your neighbor's! Whenever I find myself crossing the line with criticizing another's choices in life, I have to stop for a moment to ask myself what my motivation is in doing that. Most of the time, I am disappointed in their choice - I would have liked to see them make a more 'informed decision'. Does my criticism do them any good? Does it do me any good? The answer to both is a resounding 'no'. Why? All my criticism does is create an atmosphere of discontent, judgment, and even animosity. So, why do we do it? Why do we get so wrapped up in the criticism of others? I said it earlier - it takes the eyes off of us for even a short period of time and places those eyes on another. For just a moment, we are pointing the attention toward another - an action we hope will keep another from seeing just how we are likely to do exactly the same thing in our own lives! You've heard it said we are most critical of what we see in others because we also see it in ourselves - this is quite true. We 'see' it others because we first observe it in the mirror each morning at our own house!

A good rule of thumb is to consider why it is we are about to say whatever it is we are thinking. Is it pure? Will it uplift? Will it help or hinder? Most of our criticism of others doesn't really help anyone - in fact, it makes the other person look bad, but it also makes us look pretty small, too. Now, don't get me wrong - I am not saying I don't have this issue in my own life - because I can find myself drifting into this 'critical' mindset from time to time. It isn't a comfortable place for me though. Why? I have asked God to make it uncomfortable! Why? I know it harms relationships - it is against his command to love others - and it is just not my place to judge another. It took me almost half a lifetime to figure that one out, my friends. It is NOT my place - not my responsibility to judge, not my role to judge, not my calling to judge. No matter how I say it - it isn't my job. There is but one who is qualified to judge another's actions as right or wrong, pure or impure, holy or sinful - that is God alone. The one who is without sin is the one who is capable of judging sin - period. 

I wish it didn't occur to me to be critical of others, but my 'thinker' goes there from time to time. I don't like that I get a little 'judgmental' of others, but God is working on me to help me keep the right focus of taking care of my own life before his throne of grace and then lifting up another at that same throne of grace so HE can do what he needs to do in their lives. He may use us in some way to help another grow and change their choices, so we want to be willing to be used by him. In turn, we both grow in the relationship. I am not gonna get this right all the time, but I have committed to get it right most of the time and with God's help, I will get it right more each day. Just sayin!


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