Just the other day, my husband told me about a family that had allowed their pet ducks to hatch babies they didn't want, and which they were considering destroying. I became indignant and angry, because my own family and I had been raising ducks for years, and we were always careful not to let our pets hatch babies when we knew we couldn't properly care for them. I began ranting and raving about how irresponsible some pet owners are, and how they shouldn't have pets in the first place. When my husband and I went to a store that evening and were walking through the parking lot, I began noticing that a number of people had left their dogs in their cars unattended. It was a warm evening, and many of these pets looked uncomfortably hot, and I resumed my tirade about irresponsible pet owners that I had begun earlier in the day. But this time, as the last few angry words left my mouth, I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I knew in my heart that I was going to regret my bitter words. The following evening, for the first time ever, I put my ducks to bed without any food or water. When I realized the next morning what I had done, I was horrified and heartsick. I asked the Lord to forgive me for my carelessness, as well as for my earlier critical speech. I knew in my heart that this series of events was not coincidental, and God wanted me to learn a valuable lesson from it.
This experience made me think about the Scriptures above in Romans 2. They say that we often judge others for the very same things we do ourselves, and in doing so, we condemn ourselves. The Message Bible puts it this way: "Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one." (Romans 2:1 MSG) It's been rightly said that we judge others by their actions, and ourselves by our good intentions. This is human nature, you might say. But God calls it sin, and it is offensive to Him. Jesus called people who demonstrated these attitudes "hypocrites." (Matthew 7:5) He said, "Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults--unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging." (Matthew 7:1-2 MSG) There are many Christians today who are not experiencing the awesome plans God has for their lives because they have a "critical spirit." God wants to use them mightily, but He can't, because He knows that putting them in positions of authority will only give them more opportunities to mistreat people. I know from experience that if we're in the habit of finding fault with others, the Lord will deal with us again and again, until we get the message loud and clear that He isn't going to tolerate it from His children. If you are a parent, then you know how much it hurts when your children don't get along with each other. We shouldn't be surprised that God feels the same way.
The Bible says: "If you want a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil, and keep your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Work hard at living in peace with others. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and His ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns His face against those who do evil." (1 Peter 3:10-12 NLT) We can live the good life that Jesus died for us to have if we will watch our words, as well as our actions. How we behave can have a direct bearing on the effectiveness of our prayers, as this passage indicates. Too often, we ask God to change someone, and then we turn around and talk ugly about them, not realizing that we're undoing our own prayers. As believers, we don't have to let our mouths rule over us. The Holy Spirit who dwells in us will help us control our speech as we learn to be sensitive and obedient to His promptings. When we sense Him telling us to hold our tongues, we'd be wise to listen. For Scripture says, "He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from troubles." (Proverbs 21:23 AMP) The Bible is full of divinely inspired prayers that can help us gain the victory in this area. May David's heartfelt plea be ours this day--"Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips"! (Psalm 141:3 NKJV)
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times I've had a critical spirit. I ask that You change my heart, because Jesus said that it's the condition of my heart that determines what I say. (Matthew 12:34) Help me to be diligent in prayer and the reading of Your Word, so that I can make steady spiritual progress. "May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer"! (Psalm 19:12-14 NLT)
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