What Is A Critical Spirit?
A critical spirit or fault-finding attitude can be a work of the flesh. It is only natural to notice the faults and flaws of others, but what we do with what we see will make all the difference in the world. It doesn’t take a whole lot of discernment to notice the flaws and weaknesses of others. God gives us the ability to see things in people that need to be fixed so we can help people grow in the Lord and see positive improvements in their life. We need to be careful not to use this ability to discern areas that need work in people’s lives to develop into a critical spirit. When we start looking at the negative attributes of a person rather than the positive, we are heading into a serious sin in our own lives.
The sin of fault finding and being critical can tear up churches, marriages and friendships. It turns molehills into mountains. It makes us become the type of people that Jesus was speaking about when He compared people with this problem to those that are trying to take a speck out of their brother’s eye when they have a log in their own. People who have a critical spirit are usually very negative about life and cannot see the blessings that God has given all around them. They are focused on the negative rather than the positive.
This reminds me of the story of two farmers that went out duck hunting. One man was a positive person who always saw the good in life and one that was a classic example of a person with a critical spirit. Both men went out duck hunting one day and the positive person had a new hunting dog. The man couldn’t wait to show his critical friend his new dog. This dog was a very special dog and the man just knew that his negative friend would have to say something positive about this dog. Well, they got to the duck pond and, just like clockwork, a flock of ducks flew over. Both men were able to shoot a duck, so they called the hunting dog to retrieve the ducks. Lickety split, the dog raced out on the water and grabbed both ducks running on top of the water both ways. Well the positive farmer said to his critical friend, “What do you think about that?” to which his faultfinding friends answered, “Can’t swim, can he?”
Guarding Our Hearts Against A Critical Spirit
Normally, people who have a critical spirit (fault finding and finger pointing) are operating out of the flesh, that is, their baser human nature. However there are times when this can be attributed to demonic influence in a person’s life. It does not mean that they are demon-possessed, but it means that they are being motivated and influenced by a demonic force. This is evidenced by the many times that strife is associated with demonic activity in the scriptures.
When people allow this influence in their life, they can become very judgmental and critical with everyone and everything. They become unbending and harsh. Take a look at the Pharisee’s and how they treated everything that Jesus did. They were actively seeking things to point out to try to prove that Jesus and His disciples were wrong. People who are being satanically influenced quickly become grumblers and complainers. Take a look at what the book of Jude says in verses 16-19.
“These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.”
So as you can see, having a critical spirit is not something that any Christian should aspire to have.
Reasons People Get A Critical Spirit
Seeing the reasons behind someone’s actions can help us to not only guard our hearts, but also to be more compassionate to their circumstances.
- Prayerlessness: When we stay in an attitude of prayer, then our focus remains on Jesus and not on others. You cannot be a person of continual prayer and be critical at the same time. When we are a prayerful person then we continue to keep our heart open to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit produces in us the fruit of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22)
- Carnality: Now that word comes off strong, but what it really means is that a person is living for themselves rather than surrendered to living for Jesus. People who are living for themselves are always at odds with people who are living for Jesus. The flesh has always warred with the Spirit. (Romans 8:7)
- Familiarity: This is what happens when a person either believes or has been taught that people called to ministry or other positions with the church are somehow above failure or struggles. When this is believed and then they get to know the human side of the leader, they become “familiar” with them and find out that they put their pants on the same as everyone else. This disappointment leads to becoming critical because they expected something else.
- Pride: This happens a lot in churches and in the hearts of people that have a performance mentality. It is another side of legalism. If people think that they are performing up to standard, then those that don’t seem to be meeting their standard are looked down upon. This especially has happened in times past with Pentecostals and Charismatics who got spiritually prideful over the receiving gifts of grace called spiritual gifts. Discerning right and wrong and being judgmental is two different things. You can discern right and wrong without passing judgement (sentence) upon a person. You cannot think more highly of yourself than you ought without having a low self-esteem. Thinking you are superior will cause you to be critical.
- Ingratitude: When a person forgets or can’t see the blessings of God in their life, then they become critical. They have lost the joy of living and the joy of their salvation. The Bible teaches us that when we pray, we are to also be thankful. (Phil 4:6) It also teaches us to give thanks in everything. (1 Thess. 5:18) When we are thankful for everything and grateful to God for all the blessings He has given us, then that means we are also grateful for the people that are put in our lives. How can you be grateful to God for those people and critical of them at the same time?
How To Overcome A Critical Spirit
If you are tempted to look for faults in others, take steps to make a positive change in your life and in your faith.
- If you know you are guilty of this sin then repent. The first thing you need to do is agree with God about what He thinks of this. You have been agreeing with yourself way too much and you need to agree with God about this. God calls it sin. So call it sin and ask God to forgive you and turn away from following this path anymore.
- If you believe you have been demonically influenced then start engaging in spiritual warfare. The Bible teaches that it is through prayer and fasting that demonic power is overcome. (Matt. 17:21) Start spending more time in prayer. Spend some time fasting. Get your Christian friends and leaders to agree with you in prayer that this demonic stronghold will be defeated in you.
- Remind yourself of the grace that God has shown you. Instead of focusing on the lack in the lives of others, remind yourself of the lack that is in your own life and how God has graciously dealt with you rather than finding fault with you.
- Walk in the Spirit. Instead of focusing on the lives of others, make your focus to stay filled with the Holy Spirit throughout your day. The fruits of the Spirit and birthed by the Holy Spirit in you. Keep your focus on staying filled with His Spirit and you won’t have time to look for the faults of others.
I hope you have found this teaching both inspirational and instructional and that you did not find any faultfinding or criticism directed towards you from me. We all go through different struggles in our spiritual walks and this is no different from any other struggle. I am confident that God will bring freedom, joy, and grace to each and every one of you.
This article was first published on Pastor Duke’s website Taber’s Truths. Find him on Facebook or Twitter.