A better way to criticize

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS / Guest Columnist

A noted Alabama pastor often has opportunity to speak to younger ministers, and he insists they’ll face three certainties: discouragement, fatigue and criticism. This is not all they’ll face, but it is certainly a part of ministry.

I think we see all of these factors in the story of ancient Israel wandering in the wilderness.

According to Numbers 11, the “rabble” amongst them began to complain against God and Moses. The basis of their complaint was their dissatisfaction with manna. We still don’t know what manna was, nor did the Hebrews. In their language they called it “man hu,” or “what’s that?” We generally think of it as a bread-like substance only because they ground it and fashioned it into cakes. Whatever it was, they had it three times a day for forty years and grew rather tired of their bland diet. They began to long for the return of their days in Egypt when they had fish, cucumbers, onions and garlic.

“It was well with us in Egypt!” they proclaimed.

Well, no, it wasn’t. In Egypt they had fish to eat, but the commentators say fish was the food of slaves since it was plentiful and cheap. The point is they had been slaves in Egypt and cried out for deliverance. God heard their cries. He raised up Moses as his chosen redeemer to bring the Hebrews to a new place of freedom and plenty.

The Hebrews had a selective memory if they overlooked their days of servitude. They also forgot that their rebellion prolonged their days in the desert. They could have been in Canaan eating milk and honey but for their failure to trust God.

Moses was so disappointed in their criticism that he asked God to remove him from leadership. “This people is too much for me,” he said. He experienced severe depression and asked God to take his life.

But God did a gracious thing. He told Moses to gather 70 elders—the wise men of the tribe, as opposed to the rabble. Then God took some of the spirit of Moses and distributed it to the elders. This spirit is perhaps understood as wisdom or favor or administrative ability. In other words, God gave Moses some help. He lifted Moses’ burden and encouraged him with the faithfulness of others.

Perhaps the finest way to criticize another is not to raise a hand threateningly, but to offer a hand lovingly; to ask, “how can I help?”

Essentially this is what God did for Moses in  this story. He offered assistance.

We can follow this heavenly example by investing ourselves in the work of others. This is the finest way and the kindest way to criticize.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is Siluriabaptist.com.