Criticism is sometimes needed and justified. Jesus taught, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone” (Matthew 18:15). Jesus did not tell us to imagine or find fault with anyone – He only tells us to point out what is really there. And He is clear the first step to clearing up a fault between my brother and myself is to go tell it to the brother alone – not behind his back and not to everybody else in town or in the church.
The place to confront and criticize someone about unfaithful, fault-ridden behavior is to his or her face – not on Facebook or other social networks where others look on and weigh in. And not with a crude anonymous note, no matter how right you may think that is. The point is not to deny that all of us are sometimes guilty of faults and deserve constructive criticism. The point is that criticism, to be effective, must be done by the right person at the right time in the right place with the right attitude for the for right reasons. We should not criticize such criticism.
All that having been said, Jesus found fault with a very widespread human fault in Matthew 7:1-5 – the fault of being a faultfinder! This passage bluntly states, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (vs 1), and goes on to warn that in the end we will be judged and measured by the same judgement and measure we have used to judge and measure others (vs 2). The Lord points out that some folks focus on a “mote” or “speck” in their brother’s eye, even to the point of trying to remove it – and all the while the faultfinder has a “beam” or “plank” protruding from his own eye! So ridiculous is the picture Jesus paints it is hard to believe His original hearers did not roar with laughter as He pointed out how extreme some faultfinders can be. Careful now.
Contrary to the way some interpret this passage, Jesus is not okay with leaving a “speck” in the eye (or life), let alone a “plank” – whether in mine or my brother’s. If you’ve ever had a speck in your eye you know even the tiniest speck makes for a great deal of discomfort and dysfunction. The problem, and the proper solution, is stated by the Lord in verse 5 -“Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
The folks Jesus finds fault with in this passage are faultfinders – people who search for and find even the tiniest of faults in others while blind to mountain-sized faults in their own lives. Such people find fault with everybody and everything. Their criticism knows no boundaries or limits. Jesus was the only faultless and flawless human being who ever lived, but that didn’t keep some from criticizing and finding fault with Him, to the point they eventually crucified Him.
All this reminds me of the old story about two taxidermists walking the sidewalk. They stopped before a window where an owl was on display. They began to criticize the way the owl was mounted. Its eyes did not look natural; its wings were not rightly proportioned; its feathers were not neatly arranged; its feet did not look real; its head was cocked at an odd angle. So they said. When they finished with their criticism, the owl turned his head, and winked at them! You need to know that if you are a faultfinder, Jesus Christ will find fault with you. Think about it.