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12 Qualities of Unjust Criticism

Anyone who serves the Lord is going to face criticism. Some of it just. Some of it unjust. Just criticism is helpful, coming from a loving friend, handled personally, and can produce great strides of growth and maturity in your life. It flows between healthy relationships where hearts are like iron sharpening iron. No criticism is pleasant, but a friendly critic is a gift—a person who genuinely cares about you and your development for the Lord. This criticism should be humbly received and applied to your life.

Unjust criticism is a different experience altogether. This comes from a person with an agenda of their own—one who is determined to pick a fight and win it in ways that exhibit a lack of integrity, spiritual wisdom, love, and Christ-like concern. Here are some qualities to look out for with unjust criticism:

Unjust critics are, by nature, fault-finders—It’s what they do, like the pharisees. By their own admission they are not encouragers. I can’t imagine a cause so far from the heart of Christ as that of “fault-finding.” What a busy life that must be!

Unjust critics stir up controversy but don’t want truth—truth is fairly easy to come by. You go to the person in question and talk. You pick up the phone and make a call. You bring people together in love. You ask direct questions. You pray and work things out, even if you agree to disagree. But unjust critics will not do this because this would lead to resolution and rob the opportunity for strife. Unjust critics love the strife and convince themselves that they truly are “fighting the good fight of faith”—even when they have to fabricate the fight. Jesus never did this.

Unjust critics exaggerate and slant small bits of truth in the favor of their agenda—what bits of truth they do find, they prefer not to know the context or understand in more detail. The less they know, they more they can embellish. And in print or online, embellishment and imagination read a lot like truth. It’s very captivating and entertaining—good for readership.

Unjust critics leave out larger truth that would hurt their agenda—the whole truth usually hurts the critics story and mission. With an unjust critic you will only hear the portions of the story that support his agenda. The larger truth is left in the dark, unless you do your own research. Godly people can sniff out the “agenda” and usually go get truth themselves.

Unjust critics strain at gnats and yet swallow camels—the pharisees did this to Jesus relentlessly. “Your disciples didn’t wash their hands” “You can’t heal on the sabbath.” “You eat with publicans and sinners.” So do unjust critics. Jesus never entered their debate over the gnats and He never entered the “fault-finding” ministry. He was in the fault-forgiving ministry!

Unjust critics ignore God’s structures of authority—when there’s a problem, your first step should be in the direction of God’s biblical authority structure—to the spouse, to the pastor, to the parents, to the administrator, to the leader. An unjust critic makes himself the authority and inserts himself between all of these God-ordained structures at will. That’s a very dangerous practice and it doesn’t solve problems.

Unjust critics do not obey God’s command to “go to thy brother”—step one when you have a problem with another person is go to them personally. Get the truth from the source. At some point a public rebuke is biblical and necessary, but an unjust critic just wants to rush his agenda to market quickly—public rebuke is his only playing card. Biblical process is not important because honest understanding or biblical resolution is not the goal.  The goal is the fulfillment of pride, jealousy, and envy. The goal is aggression and vehemence in the name of “standing.”

Unjust critics try to draw you into a fight—they like the drama, like 5th grade girls. They like to be the ones who exposed the fault. They live in a mode of self-righteous examination of other brothers. They seem to have never read Matthew 7:3-4. Or they reason it away completely—”There’s nothing in my eye!”

Unjust critics try to bait you to speak so they can turn your words against you—one of the worst things you can do with an unjust critic is enter the debate with them. Because truth is not the goal and resolution is not desired outcome. They make the rules. It’s their game. And your words or attempts to answer will merely be twisted and turned against you. An unjust critic will always have you saying what you didn’t say, or didn’t intend.

Unjust critics desire to provoke, not resolve—I’ve touched on this, but it’s huge. Problems and disagreements should be resolved between Christian brothers.  Jesus instructed us to handle criticism and problems privately at first. After twenty years of ministry with this philosophy, I can tell you that 99.9% of the time, the problem is resolved at that point. It’s a wonderful thing. But resolution removes the unjust critics shot at larger conflict and broader strife. It kills the game before it begins. Point is, you can’t please an unjust critic, no matter what you do. So don’t try.

Unjust critics hide themselves in a shroud of false humility—They insert scriptural descriptives and self-efacing terminology to let you know how sincere they are. Those words read well, and readers tend to forget that actions completely betray them. An unjust critic’s behavior far outweighs disingenuous humility and feigned concern.

Unjust critics say what they don’t do, then do it—It’s an odd kind of double speak, but it works for the unjust critic’s crowd. For instance, “I’m not attacking…”—then BOOM, an attack. But it’s not really, because the critic said it wasn’t. “I’m just a humble sinner saved by grace”—then BOOM, a self-proclaimed authority over whatever is in question. “I would never want to usurp your pastor’s authority.”—then BOOM, “I need to tell you how wrong your pastor and church is.” Watch out for this tactic with unjust critics.

My advice? Don’t enter the argument of an unjust critic. Walk away. The critic wants the fight, not the solution. Find Christ-like Christians—Christians who live and minister with the heart of a shepherd and the love of the Saviour. Find Christians who encourage, build, edify, and strengthen their brethren. Find Christians with evident fruit—not just frustration. And don’t get caught up in the discouragement ministry of unjust critics. And most of all, don’t get discouraged by them when you are the subject of their malice.

Unjust critics have always been around. God uses them to remind us all “what not to become.” If you are being unjustly criticized, be encouraged! Be challenged! Let God work. Let your life and work speak for itself.

It’s hard to legitimately argue with the truth and the evident fruits of righteousness.

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11 Comments

  • Love the article and every one of the points. In this day of the Internet and instant information these principles become all the more important. David knew better than to lift his hand against Saul, even though he was an insane murderer; yet many have no fear of getting on the internet and lifting their keyboards against men of God with decades of faithful service and ministry.

  • These are some powerful points that our movement would do well to consider.
    A verse that has always been a help to me when dealing with unjust critics is II Tim. 2:23- “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.” Its is followed by the reminder that the servant of the Lord must not strive.
    The truths are simple, but they are not always easy to employ as the flesh is always desiring to defend itself.
    Thanks for the encouraging words.

    MW

  • I would like to thank you for posting thiswhen you did. We needed to hear this at this time as we are facing unjust critics who won’t give up. I know God will be victorious and it will be a GREAT victory, just by the way Satan keeps attacking. It is sad in this day of internet that so many unjust critics are willing to spew their filth, yet unwilling to use their name. I cannot believe how many people with the name Anonymous are in the world today. A good sign of the unjust critic. Thank you again.

  • Bro. Schmidt,

    I appreciate your article. Right on. He definitely didn’t handle it right and should apologize. Praying for you all.

    Bro. Baker

  • Love love love this article. Thanks Bro. Schmidt!

  • Thank you for this Bro. Schmidt! We have dealt with this in recent days- even though in our hearts we know that the person is an unjust critic, sometimes it is hard not to take it personally because we want to “be right” with everyone. This was a great help to us. We are praying for you.

  • Great article! Just talked on the phone with an “unjust critic” this week, and walked away in tears. Should have read your article before the call, so I could have walked away…at the beginning : ) Will share it with a dear friend who is also facing the same situation. Hope you are feeling good and looking forward to good reports when all the “treatments” are done.
    Joy Loveday
    Madrid, Spain

  • Bro. Schmidt, I always enjoy reading your articles, they are consistently positive and edifying exhortation for the Christian reader. I am not in “the know” when it comes to problems and criticisms of various ministries, but I am sure WCBC has seen it’s fair share of it through the years. The 12 twelve points all mentioned the unjust Critic. I simply want to point out that there is a huge difference between unjust critics and unjust criticism. I work in a secular environment daily, as do many Christians, and basicly most of them are unjust people. However heinous their lifestyle is though, when they point criticism towards me, I have to objectively look at what they are saying and discern whether the criticism is true and accurate. To Me, it is completely Irrelavant what their motives are (pure or vile, honest or deceit); To Me, whether they are coming as a loving friend or hateful enemy is not the issue (of course it is easier to receive when they are Caring Christians and not faultfinders); It is my duty to review the criticism and respond to the truth of it (If there is truth in it indeed). If there is no value in the criticism and nothing for me to change about my disposition or actions, then I simply ignore the criticism if possible (Answer not the fool according to his folly) or address it properly if necessary (Answer the fool according to his folly). If the criticism is truly fabricated, exaggerated, Bully-like in nature, or disingenuious, then I have nothing to change, and should just Keep serving and plowing away for the Lord. Occupy till I Come. I Glad God is keeping the score and He is ALWAYS Just in Judgment!

  • Excellent and encouraging thoughts Bro. Hopkins… thank you for your insight!

  • Thank you, Cary, for this article. It is meeting a need in my life as I have been made aware of some unjust criticism directed towards me and the ministries that I oversee. May we all be encouraged to follow the commands of Jesus when it comes to questions and/or offenses.

  • I read your post again this evening, and I am currently struggling with this exact thing, only I may be the one who is unjustly critical of my pastor and his staff at the handling on a particular issue. Without say the church’s name and that of the pastor, I will relate the situation briefly. My family, and particularly my children, have been the ongoing targets of one particular family for gossip and attack on my children’s character. This has been going on for some eight months. At one point, I went directly to the husband and placed a telephone call yo him to discuss the gossiping and spreading of rumors by his wife and daughter. The purpose was to arrange for a meeting to talk about the situation. I left a message which was returned an hour or so later. Now at this point, I had done exactly as the Bible commanded – I whet to that brother directly. Instead of his voice on the other end of the line, it was his wife’s. He told her to handle this, because he didn’t know anything about it – thus, giving up his position as leader of the house. After some discussion with both of them over the course several days, some of which got heated, I decided to turn it over to the pastoral staff to try to mediate and resolve this situation. A meeting was held where I was promptly attacked and told I didn’t handle anything in a Christlike manner – forgetting that I was the one who initiated the original call to meet and discuss this. The pastoral staff member did a fine job trying to mediate, but at that point the goal of reconciliation was lost and I ended up leaving the meeting without resolution – I walked out after enduring several personal attacks on my character.

    Now, some three months later, another situation has occurred with gossip and rumors being spread about my children at the hands of this family – their high school daughter. At this point, I thought it would be best to go directly to the pastoral staff for resolution. Perhaps my anger and frustration have got the better of me, based on past and recent experiences, and the fact that nothing has ever been settled. I demanded immediate and full resolution to end this once and for all, to which my pastor and his staff seemed to be quite indifferent to. I am at a loss to understand the reluctance to settle this, and have even chastise the pastor as indifferent, and for what appears to be a “turning of their backs” toward me.

    I have criticized their handling of this situation to the point if withdrawing my membership. I realize this sounds like true bitterness (I know, I smacks out loud), but I tried to handle this Biblically, only to have thing go ary. Is my criticism exactly what you have portrayed? Facts are facts, and while there was initial denial of things said, they eventually admitted (albiet, only partially) to saying some of the things they were accused of saying. After reading this post again, I am unsure that my criticism of how this was handle was justified.

    I realize that you only have my side of this story, but your insight would be appreciated and helpful for me to understand. I realize also that my simply asking you this is probably my answer.

    May God continue to bless you in your ministry and your health. I have prayed for Lancaster Baptist and both you and Pastor Chappell for some time and will continue to do so.


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