Today’s Reading: Numbers 11:24-13:3 (additional reading Psalm 52:1-9 and Proverbs 11:1-3)
Key Verse: “While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman.” Numbers 12:1
I know people who proudly say ‘”If I think it, I might as well say it.” But James 3:8 says ‘but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison’. Most of the time we seem just not to be able to help ourselves. We just love to complain about others.
Moses’ own sister and brother let their tongues loose and before you know it they were saying things they would later regret. Have you ever done the same? How then do you keep yourself from making a mess with your mouth? Here are three questions to ask yourself before you loosen your lips for criticism.
1) Are my comments against the person, or against something the person is doing or saying?
There is nothing at all wrong with trying to help our leaders or anyone else see things that need improving. But the “why” and the “way” in which we carry this out are vitally important. The attack of Miriam and Aaron on their little brother was personal, not helpful. We can always tell criticism is wrong when we begin to attack the person and not the problem.
2) Does my criticism mask the real reason for my verbal attack?
Miriam and Aaron were critical of Moses for marrying a woman of another race. This was simply a smokescreen to draw attention away from the real reason his siblings were upset with him. They were upset that all of the attention was going to Moses (v2). Our motive is always central when we talk to or about others. Miriam and Aaron suffered from envy and jealousy. If you find yourself tempted to be envious or jealous of another take some time to reconsider the opportunities God has given you.
Aaron was the only man on the planet who could enter the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement and Miriam had been the one who had cleverly saved Moses’ life as a baby, plus prophesied and led the Israelites in worship and praise to God at the Red Sea. The key is not to focus on the doors of opportunity God has opened for others. The key is to concentrate on the openings God brings to us.
3) Am I helping or hurting by what I am saying?
Ephesians 4:29 says “Do not let 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.” Instead of saying critical or discouraging things to or about one another, consider making it a practice to encourage and build people by your conversation.
- Are you a critical person?
- How can you attack the problem and not the person?
- How can you celebrate the ways that God uses others?
Father, sorry for those times we speak badly about others and even those you have chosen and anointed for a special purpose. Help us not to live self-focused, but to celebrate all that You do in our lives and the lives of others. Help us to help others to grow out of love and not interfere because of pride or envy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.