Given a choice, would you rather be around someone with a critical spirit, or would you instead spend time with someone quick to point out the good things in life and even the good things in you?
The Apostle Paul was just the person you would love to be around. When other people could find a good reason to grumble, Paul could see an even better reason to say something good — even in the most difficult of circumstances.
I don’t know if it came naturally to him or supernaturally, but Paul trained himself to notice whatever was “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy” that is what he thought about, and mostly what he spoke about (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Stephen, the first martyr, was like that, and so was Peter. Throughout the New Testament, God’s leaders had that razor focus on good things we find so attractive today.
There is a story outside the Bible that tells of another kind of person. A 13th-century Arab writer named Ibn Said wrote a tale about people who practice a critical spirit. Today the story can be read in collections of Aesop’s fables. It is the fable called, “The Miller, His Son, and the Donkey.” It goes like this.
A miller, his son, and a donkey were walking down a road. As they travel, they met a series of passers-by, all of whom criticized them — no matter what.
When the father and son walked next to the donkey, someone criticized them for not riding it.
When the father rode the donkey, they scorned him for making his young son walk.
When the son rode, and the father walked, they criticized the son for making his elderly father walk.
When both ride the donkey, someone rebuked them for putting too much of a burden on their donkey.
At last, hearing all the criticism, they exasperate the father. He tells his son that the only option left for them is to carry the donkey. So, they tie the animal to a pole and put the donkey on their shoulders. How ridiculous!
The point of the fable is how foolish it is to please everyone. Another aspect could also be, ignore people with a critical spirit.
One of the beautiful things about cultivating a new life in Jesus is growing in the general direction of noticing good things and speaking well of others. A vibrant part (though not the only part) of the Christian life is having a spirit that is winsome, and joyful, being quick to spot good things in others.
J. Sidlow Baxter, a 19th-century pastor and theologian from England, once said: “One of the first things that happens when an individual is filled with the Spirit, is not that they begin to speak in other tongues, but that they learn to hold the one tongue they already have.”
A follower of Jesus not only knows how to hold their tongue but when they don’t out pop comments about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.
Does that sound like you?
Now that’s something to Celebrate!