The spirit of Fault-Finding
Robert Wurtz II
“Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).
One of the characteristics of hypocrisy is a spirit of fault-finding. When I say “spirit,” I don’t necessarily mean demon possession, but it is undoubtedly a demonic influence. Pride and hypocrisy are bedfellows and are frequently encouraged and instigated by the enemy. Once a person yields to these sins, they rarely realize how they offended God or their fellow man.
In modern times, being critical is almost a virtue. Critical thinking skills are essential to problem-solving, analysis, and reasoning. But what happens when our critical thinking skills are used to attack people? It becomes fault-finding and it’s anything but virtuous. Matthew 7:5 reveals that fault-finders focus on everyone’s faults but their own and won’t hesitate to point them out. In my experience, they will criticize but rarely compliment. Fault-finding is an earthly, sensual, and demonic outlook or attitude. Jesus experienced it and everyone who lives for Him will experience it. The challenge is when the behavior originates from a professing believer.
The Audacity of Criticism
The difference between real life and social media human behaviors. Real-life people are being friendly and non-judgmental. However, people become judgmental when they enter the social media cyberspace
There is a Hebrew term that everyone should have in their vocabulary, and its the word ḥuṣpāh (חֻצְפָּה), meaning “insolence,” “cheek,” or “audacity.” In Yiddish, it comes down in the slang form “chutzpah.” Think of the many times that the Pharisees, from a sense of superiority, challenged Jesus, and you’ll get a feel for what “chutzpah” means. Talk about audacity! John the Baptist, the Old Testament’s greatest man, didn’t feel worthy to unloose Jesus’ sandals, and here are the consummate fault-finders (Pharisees) challenging Him. You just can’t make it up.
A spirit of fault-finding, tethered with pride, sends a fool headlong into danger with confidence (Proverbs 14:16). They forget that “just as God will forgive only the forgiving, so he will judge his people as they judge others.” The clear message of Matthew 6-7 is that we should treat others as we want to be treated. Brotherly love can’t happen unless we examine ourselves and get our act together before trying to help others or point out their faults.
Jesus uses the illustration of “eye surgery” (if you like) to explain the sensitive nature of fault-finding. Have you ever had something in your eye? If you have, then you know how painful it is. The last thing you want or need is some reckless person poking around on your eyeball trying to help you out.
Most of the time, when we have something in our eye, we get it out ourselves. We should also apply this truth regarding trivial matters where fault-finders want to involve themselves. Yet, I have had metal pieces (specs) removed from my eyes in the ER on three different occasions. Talk about pain! The last thing I needed was a heavy-handed, half-blind, and insensitive ER Physician digging out those tiny shards. My eyes hurt, just thinking about it.
We should not be quick to insert ourselves into other peoples’ business. When Jesus healed on the Sabbath (for example), what business was it of the Pharisees? They never healed anyone, and yet they are criticizing Him. Here comes that Hebrew word ḥuṣpāh (חֻצְפָּה) again. They attacked a trivial aspect of a great deed. This behavior is textbook fault-finding.
The fault-finder, blinded by the sins of pride and envy, ignore or refuse to address any sin or compromise that blocks their vision. They have an insensitive and reckless “here, let me get that out of your eye for you” kind of attitude. But Jesus said they couldn’t see clearly. Pride, anger, and envy make a person insensitive and callous. They are motivated by diabolic and fleshy forces rather than brotherly love.
James spoke to this very thing when he wrote, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:14–18 ESV).
Critical but not Complementary
Social media has a way of bringing out attitudes, unlike anything else. Nobody likes a troll. If we rarely compliment people for their good deeds but are quick to criticize them, we may be a fault-finder. The Pharisees sat around and waited for Jesus to do something they could knock. They were envious and looked for an occasion to attack Him. Yet they couldn’t have loosened His sandals if they wanted to.
Not everyone is Jesus. He was perfect. I don’t mean to imply that the person with the speck, splinter, or straw in their eye (as it were) doesn’t need help. As I said before, we typically can get foreign objects out of our own eyes without any help. Yet, when we see something wrong about a person or something they have done, our first reaction should be self-examination. Do I have a beam in my eye? Why do I want to intervene here? Am I being motivated by brotherly love?