• johned@aibi.ph

Critical And Mocking Spirits

by John Edmiston

Matthew 7:1-6 HCSB "Do not judge, so that you won't be judged. (2) For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (3) Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye but don't notice the log in your own eye? (4) Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and look, there's a log in your eye? (5) Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (6) Don't give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.


Today we are looking at the problem of critical and mocking spirits. This is one of the most common problems in human relationships and lies at the root of much conflict. There is a kind of person who is sure they are right and everyone else is wrong, they are wise and everyone else is stupid. This is a massive spiritual defect.

The truth is that all human beings are made in the image of God - therefore we will be right about some things, but we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, so we will all be wrong about some things.

People who go habitually around thinking “I am right and so and so is wrong” are under law not under grace. Such thinking is a punishing prison of the soul. Such people are always finding fault in other people's doctrine or their ideas or how tidy they are, or how they drive or various aspects of their personality. They mentally pick out all the faults of all the people in their world.

After a while such people tend to become rigid, hard and unyielding and their comments may become cruel. They can even become tyrannical. Every discussion has to end up with them being right and the other person being wrong. They become brilliant at debating but very poor at living and loving.

If this continues they lose their main relationships in life, their kids resent them, their partner leaves them, their friends stay away. One by one they get into blazing rows and relationship wrenching arguments and lose those closest to them. They end up eccentric, isolated and alone, in fact one of the four main causes of loneliness is the need to be always right.

People who go around thinking “I am right, you are wrong” or “I am OK, you are not OK” often use this as a justification for hostility. I can yell at you because I am right and you are wrong and because I am OK, and you are not OK. Of course this can grow in scale so that the Hatfield's and McCoys end up feuding over the assumption that “ I am right and you are wrong and because I am OK, and you are not OK” and of course entire nations go to war on the same set of assumptions.

Lastly the stance of “I am right and you are wrong” makes all learning and change very difficult. New ideas and new technology is seen as a threat and constructive suggestions from others are not easily taken on board. In my corporate outplacement work the main people forms wanted to get rid of were people who would not adapt to change especially those who resisted it in the form belief that they were right and the company was wrong. So people who go around being “always right” are liable to be lonely, hostile, rejected and employed at a level well below that which they could otherwise be employed at.

Now the title of this sermon is “Critical And Mocking Spirits” - because this is a spiritual problem not an intellectual problem, it is a problem of attitude, not a problem of knowing this or that.

Every person is made up of body, soul and spirit and the human spirit is where our life's wisdom resides. Wisdom is how we handle information and the inner framework that we put our information into. The spirit is what makes us animated, wise, perceptive, and worshipful, it is where our deepest life intuitions are formed and where our fundamental perspective on life takes shape. The Bible describes at least 21 different conditions of the human spirit including bitter spirits, joyful spirits, broken spirits, dull spirits etc.

A person with a critical spirit is always finding fault with others, a person with a scoffing and mocking spirit aggressively disdains that which other people value. In other words these people have made certain fundamental decisions about how they will process new input. The person with a critical spirit searches for all the tiny, tiny mistakes. That is the first thing they look for, their mental activity is geared towards proving their theory that I am right and you are wrong, I am OK and you are not OK”. Since everyone human being has faults this is quite easy to accomplish. They forget that God is watching them and that one day they will also be judged.

Do Not Judge

"Do not judge, so that you won't be judged.” One of Scripture's rules of thumb is that God treats us in much the same way that we treat others, if we are merciful, then we receive mercy, if we forgive others, then God will forgive us, but if we judge others God will judge us.

Jesus puts it this way: (2) For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

We get a longer version in Luke 6:

Luke 6:35-38 HCSB
But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. (36) Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. (37) "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (38) Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over--will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."

Thus people who are severe on others, will be severely treated by God and those who are kind to others, will be treated kindly by God. I have met a few Christians who were very strict, judgmental and critical - and they will face a terrifying future on judgment day, for God will treat them as they have treated others.

How we treat others is at the very heart of the Christian faith and of stories such as the woman at the well or the Good Samaritan. Jesus often included people that other people excluded, people such as lepers, tax-collectors, prostitutes, and Samaritans. Jesus was a non-judgmental friend of the social outcast, of the poor and of the outsider. Despite the fact that Jesus was very holy, and was always right, people still felt safe with Him. Jesus managed to hold very high standards in His own life, while loving and including people who were broken and sinful.

So we can both have high moral standards ourselves (as Jesus did) and still love and include people who are struggling in life - as Jesus also did. We do not have to throw out our high personal standards - but we should not judge others.

Now there are two main words for judging used in the New Testament. The first word is “krino” and “krino” means to judge as a whole, or to condemn. This judges the whole person in one fell swoop e.g. “Bill is good, but Jim is bad” and this is what Jesus forbids. We have no right at all to entirely condemn another human being.

The other Greek word is “dokimazo” and “dokimazo” means to discern. You evaluate just one attribute of a person such as “Bill is not very good with the books but he is an excellent salesman.” This is needed if we are to place people in the right jobs or assign them to the right ministry. Dokimazo judgment does not condemn people as a whole, in fact it is not interested in condemning or criticizing, it simply evaluates on the basis of the facts. Last Sunday Rene Forbes and I met with a man who we both felt was a con-artist. We felt we did not want anything further to do with his schemes and left the meeting early. That is a legitimate discerning judgment and we do not judge him as a whole person but simply in the aspect of his business dealings.

The Church should be a place where people feel loved and included and accepted just as they are. Yes God does want us to get our act together, but He gives us plenty of time and plenty of grace in order to do that. No one grows by being pulled part, judged and condemned. If we create an accepting , loving environment then the Holy Spirit will help people to change and to grow in grace.

Specks and Logs

(3) Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye but don't notice the log in your own eye? (4) Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and look, there's a log in your eye? (5) Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

In verses three, four and five Jesus talks about specks and logs. This is to do with how we see the faults in others, but yet refuse to see the quite obvious flaws in ourselves. Here are some common ways we do this:

  1. We judge others by their actions, but ourselves by our intentions.

  2. We only apply standards that are easy for us but difficult for others e.g. A rich person will judge others by their wealth or an intellectual will judge people by their academic ability.

  3. We rationalize our faults as the result of our childhood or as not really being “too bad” while not giving other people the same benefit.

  4. We blank out our faults entirely and manage to see ourselves as perfect. Such people can come across as extremely charming but are very pathological.

  5. We hide our faults from ourselves but project them onto others, like pictures on a movie screen. So the person who struggles with lust, sometimes accuses other people of having lustful minds. We see this in certain fundamentalist preachers who preach most vigorously against adultery when they are having an affair themselves.

  6. We invent a certain “trapdoor” standard that must be met or the trapdoor opens and the person plunges to Hell. It might be a doctrine such as the Trinity or predestination or a certain behavior such as tithing or speaking in tongues or handling rattlesnakes with immunity.

  7. The “at least I'm not a homosexual” defense - making the criteria for judgment a sin that holds no temptation for you personally.

  8. We “compensate” for our faults so someone might say: “Yes I have a bad temper but I am kind to animals.”

Some psychiatrists have made long lists of these mechanisms that people use to hide their faults - they are called “defense mechanisms” and they defend the person from the painful realization that they have a log in their own eye!

There is an old saying that “when you point at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you”. We might be right about the fault in the other person, but we also have many faults of our own. Jesus tells us that we need to “remove the log in our own eye” that is deal with our big faults first - before picking out the little faults in other people.

Pearls Before Swine

Don't give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.

Now Jesus turns from the critical spirit to the mocking and scoffing spirit. Such a person mocks and scoffs at religion, scorns the Bible and disdains spiritual truth. Jesus says “do not waste your time with such people, you will only get hurt”.

There are some people who seem to lack all spiritual sensitivity. They have no inclination to worship, and lack all sense of the holy. Some are sophisticated intellectuals while others are coarse and vulgar. They react to spiritual truth in a three step process:

  1. Trampling: They scorn and devalue the gospel and discard it and attack it. Your pearls of wisdom are thrown aside and trampled underfoot.

  2. Turning: They change in nature, five minutes ago you may have been talking to an intelligent rational person but now they are ranting and raving. They go suddenly from friendly to hostile.

  3. Tearing: They rip into you in a blistering attack and intend to hurt both you and your faith.

If you tried to share the gospel at a meeting of the ACLU you would probably get this exact reaction.

Some of the reasons that people absolutely refuse to hear the gospel include:

  1. Fleshly inclinations - Romans 8:7

  2. Intellectual and philosophical opposition - 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

  3. Our fallen nature - 1 Corinthians 2:14, Ephesians 2:1-3

  4. The Devil’s blinding of the heart - 2 Corinthians 4:3-4,

  5. Legalism - 2 Corinthians 3:14

  6. Cultural and spiritual strongholds - 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

  7. Human ignorance - Ephesians 4:17,18

  8. Evil actions - Colossians 1:21

When you run into tough opposition there are three things you can do:

  1. Pray

  2. Use logic, apologetics, and human arguments to break up the fallow ground.

  3. Leave the area.

Jesus is telling us that there are some people we should NOT share the gospel with! There are some people who are too bigoted, too dangerous, too hostile to witness to.

Matthew 10:14-15 HCSB If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. (15) I assure you: It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

There are some parts of the world that missionaries have left because the reaction to the gospel was so hostile. It is simply impossible to share the truth in any meaningful way with people or they will kill you. What then can be done? You cannot share the gospel openly but you can pray. At the moment it is Ramadan and Christians all around the world are engaged in thirty days of prayer for the Muslim world and for places and peoples who resist the gospel. This barrage of prayer is gradually wining spiritual victories and opening minds and hearts to Christ.


We deal with critical spirits and mocking spirits all the time in life and we need to realize that these are irrational spiritual perspectives that are driven by inner needs of the person and lies they have consciously or unconsciously believed.

There are large chunks of humanity that are unfair and irrational and they will judge you mercilessly over trivia and react to you harshly concerning your faith in Jesus Christ. They do this to defend their own egos, or in order to maintain their sinful lifestyle and especially to avoid the need for personal change.

We need to realize that we live in a spiritual universe that is occasionally rational but often isn't. People who are committed to an anti-Christian stance, who occupy the opposite camp in the culture wars, who ridicule the Bible and attack morality will not be convinced by reason. The problem is not intellectual, or logical, its spiritual. The Devil has control of them, and their own appetites have control of them. In fact nearly 80% of the culture war is about people enslaved to various sexual sins not wanting to feel guilty.

What is the answer to such spiritual opposition - prayer and the Word of God. We have weapons of righteousness we can use, the darkness may grow but we can light a candle. God does not leave us helpless, the gospel will eventually prevail.

© Copyright GlobalChristians.Org 1997

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.