A photo capturing a weathered Bible lying open, illuminated by a single beam of light, symbolizing the power of self-reflection and introspection against the backdrop of criticism.

What Does The Bible Say About Criticism?

Criticism is an inherent part of the human experience. At some point, we have all experienced criticism from others as well as been critical ourselves. This begs the question – what does the Bible say about criticism?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible encourages believers to offer criticism with wisdom, grace, humility and love. It warns against being overly critical or judgmental of others.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore several key Bible passages that provide wisdom and instruction on giving and receiving criticism constructively versus destructively. We will look at what biblical figures like Jesus, Paul and Solomon said about criticism and examine principles that believers can apply to their lives today.

By the end, you will have a thorough understanding of the biblical perspective on criticism.

Criticism from a Biblical Perspective

Definition and Types of Criticism

Criticism refers to the expression of disapproval or objection regarding a person’s behavior or actions. The Bible discusses constructive criticism that aims to build someone up as well as destructive criticism that tears someone down.

Types of criticism include rebuke, reproof, correction, and judgment.

Criticism in the Old Testament

There are many examples of criticism in the Old Testament, both positive and negative. God constructively criticizes human behavior multiple times, calling people to follow His ways. There are also instances of people criticizing leadership and others engaging in destructive criticism such as mockery or false accusations.

Criticism in the New Testament

Jesus and His disciples faced criticism from Jewish religious leaders for controversial teachings and practices. Jesus balanced criticism of sinfulness with mercy and forgiveness. He criticized hypocrisy and self-righteousness but showed compassion.

The epistles instruct believers in appropriate handling of criticism within the church.

Jesus’ Teachings on Criticism

According to Jesus, constructive criticism should be gentle, private, and motive-questioning. Destructive criticism attacks the person versus behavior, makes accusations without confirmation of facts, and can reveal a defiling inner condition of the criticizer (Matthew 7:1-5).

Instructive Principles from Paul and Solomon

The apostle Paul taught principles regarding how to best give and receive criticism. Giving criticism should be done in love, stick to the facts, and aim to build others up (Ephesians 4:15). Receiving criticism requires patience, careful thought, and honesty (Philippians 4:8).

Solomon advised avoiding pointless criticism of others and learning from correction.

Constructive Criticism Destructive Criticism
  • Aims to gently build someone up
  • Addresses specific behaviors/actions
  • Allows opportunity for response
  • Provides support for positive change
  • Intends to tear someone down
  • Attacks character and motives
  • Makes general accusations
  • Focuses blame on others

Research shows 93% of communication is nonverbal, so critics should consider their body language and tone of voice. The Bible advises thoughtful assessment of our own weaknesses first when tempted to criticize others.

Guidelines for Giving Criticism from a Biblical Standpoint

Offer Criticism with Wisdom and Discernment

When offering criticism, we must use wisdom and discernment to determine if it is truly necessary or constructive (Proverbs 15:2). Ask God for guidance and be slow to speak, not blurting out whatever comes to mind in the moment (Proverbs 15:28, James 1:19).

Consider if a gentle rebuke or exhortation may prove more beneficial than blunt criticism (Galatians 6:1).

Criticize with Humility, Not Pride

Criticism should stem from a humble heart, not a prideful spirit (Galatians 6:1). Do not think yourself superior while pointing out the faults of others. Recognize your own weaknesses and shortcomings (Romans 2:1). Approach the individual with gentleness and humility (Galatians 5:22-23).

Aim to Build Up, Not Tear Down

Offer criticism in a constructive way, with the goal of building someone up in Christ (Ephesians 4:29). Do not simply condemn or find fault. Provide practical advice for improvement when appropriate (Colossians 3:16). Season your speech with grace so the person may learn and grow (Colossians 4:6).

Criticize in Love, Not Anger

Criticism should stem from love, not irritation or anger (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Do not let your temper flare up or respond in the heat of your emotions (James 1:19-20). Offer correction calmly and for the right reasons, not to put others down or prove yourself right.

Check Your Own Shortcomings First

Before criticizing others, examine your own heart and conduct (Matthew 7:3-5). Be sure you do not struggle with the same issue you want to point out. Confess any logs in your own eye before noticing the speck in someone else’s. We all have faults, so approach criticism with humility.

Consider Timing, Privacy and Relationship

Discern the appropriate time and place to offer criticism, usually in private (Proverbs 25:9-10). Do not embarrass the person in front of others. Consider your relationship and determine if you are close enough to lovingly point out their fault. Pray for Godly wisdom in how to approach them.

Avoid Slander, Gossip and Judging Motives

Do not slander or gossip about someone’s fault to others (Proverbs 26:20). Avoid judging their motives and inner heart when you cannot truly know them (Luke 6:37). Stick to constructive criticism instead of using flaws as fodder for idle talk behind their back.

Responding to Criticism Biblically

Listen Carefully and Pray

When facing criticism, it’s important to really listen to what the other person is saying. Don’t interrupt or get defensive. Hear them out fully (Proverbs 18:13). Then take some time to pray about it, asking God to help you understand if there is any truth to what was said and how you should respond (Psalm 139:23-24).

Listening carefully and taking it to God in prayer often provides much-needed perspective.

Consider Whether There is Any Truth in It

After listening and praying, objectively consider if there are any valid points in the criticism (Proverbs 17:10). We all have blind spots and room for growth. If the critique holds some truth, receive it humbly. Don’t downplay or justify it.

Ask God to help you learn from it and make needed changes (Psalm 51:10). Handling criticism this way displays godly wisdom and maturity.

Avoid Knee-Jerk Defensiveness

It’s easy to get defensive when criticized. Our pride can kick in, causing us to immediately reject what is said without thoughtfully considering it first. But being quick to argue or make excuses often escalates conflict (Proverbs 17:14). Instead, stay calm and think before responding.

You don’t need to react right away. Taking time to process can help you respond properly.

Respond with Gentleness and Respect

When you address the criticism, do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Don’t attack the critic or retaliate. Be careful with your tone and choice of words. State your perspective humbly without anger or insults.

This follows the biblical principle of speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and prevents foolish quarrels (2 Timothy 2:24).

Forgive and Let Go of Resentment

Being criticized, especially harshly, can cause hurt feelings and resentment toward the person. But holding a grudge is spiritually unhealthy. The Bible instructs us to forgive others as God forgave us (Colossians 3:13). Let go of bitterness and make the choice not to dwell on the offense.

Free yourself to move forward in a positive direction.

Use It as an Opportunity for Growth

If taken constructively, criticism can spur self-evaluation and positive change. Ask God to show you how to grow from the experience (Hebrews 12:11). Be willing to learn, be corrected, and improve. With God’s help, a difficult interaction can become an opportunity for increased wisdom and Christlike character.

When Criticism Becomes Destructive

Identifying Unhealthy Criticism

Criticism can quickly become unhealthy when the intention is to tear down rather than build up. Signs of destructive criticism include attacking someone’s character rather than addressing a specific behavior, exaggerating flaws beyond proportion, applying unrealistic standards, or condemnation without any attempt to encourage.

This type of criticism breeds insecurity, resentment, and anger. We must be discerning to recognize when criticism aims to harm more than help.

Setting Boundaries Against Abusive Speech

When we encounter ongoing unhealthy criticism, we may need to set firm boundaries. We can reject speaking or listening to abusive speech while still honoring our critics with kindness (Proverbs 15:1). If verbal attacks persist, we may need to limit contact and refrain from giving abusive critics an audience.

This protects us from false accusations and excessive fault finding. Let’s be slow to take offense, but willing to say “enough” for our own well-being.

Seeking Counsel from Godly Advisors

During times of intense criticism, we need wise biblical counsel from trusted believers. They can help us identify truth amid distortions and separate worthwhile criticism from unfair attacks. As Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

Accountability to mature Christians who know us well helps guard against deception when we face strong opposition.

Criticism that Leads to Despair

When criticism becomes excessive, it can lead us to despair. Feelings of worthlessness and depression may tempt us to give up. But we can cry out to God for comfort when our spirits are overwhelmed (Psalm 61:2).

Through prayer and dwelling on scripture, we gain perspective that our value is based on Christ’s acceptance, not others’ approval. We also remember that criticism, even if justified, is an opportunity to humbly examine our actions, make improvements, and grow.

With support and God’s grace, we can weather the most ferocious storms of disapproval without losing heart.


In conclusion, the Bible provides abundant wisdom on how believers should approach the complex topic of criticism. Central principles include being slow to criticize others, offering correction with humility and grace, receiving criticism with discernment and responding in a Christ-like manner.

Destructive criticism that tears down our identity in Christ should be rejected. Overall, the biblical perspective calls followers of Christ to use criticism to build up, not destroy, to heal rather than wound, and to think the best of others as we would want them to think of us.

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