Recently I was looking at the website stats and saw that someone found the site when searching the question, “What is the difference between exhortation and criticism?” I would suppose this site came up in the search results due to the training on the spiritual gift of exhortation. Nonetheless, it got me to thinking about it.
- Exhortation is a spiritual gift God has given some people to serve. (Rom. 12:8)
- Criticism is not a spiritual gift.
- Exhortation is a command all believers are to engage in with one another. (1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 3:13)
- Criticism is not commanded.
That pretty well sums it up for me but I’m sure the next question some might ask would be “Is criticism ever right?”
Obviously we are not to ignore the wrongdoings or mistakes of others. Sometimes it would help for them to know what they are doing wrong, not just what they are doing right. The Bible does indeed tell us to speak the truth but in that same verse we are instructed to do so “in love” (Eph. 4:15). 2 Timothy 2:24-25a says, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition.” We must never lay aside the qualities of love (1 Cor. 13:4-7) when confronting someone about the error of their ways.
We must always consider our motivations as well as the way we approach someone. That is what truly makes the difference between exhortation and criticism.
- Exhortation builds up whereas criticism often tears down. (Eph. 4:29)
- Exhortation comes from a standpoint of coming alongside of the person (paraklesis) whereas criticism usually comes from an aloof or superior position.
- Exhortation tends to bring hope and encouragement whereas criticism tends to lead to despair and discouragement. (1 Thess. 4:18; 2 Pet. 3:3-4)
- Exhortation helps people become what God wants them to be whereas criticism tends to emphasize what people should not be. (Heb. 10:24)
- Exhortation is built upon caring concern whereas criticism stems from judgmentalism and disapproval. (Matt. 7:1-5; Col. 3:13; Gal. 6:1)
- Exhortation should lead to conviction whereas criticism can bring condemnation. (Heb. 3:13)
My question is — Why criticize when exhortation is so much more effective?