Test yourself on the following questions. How do you respond when someone criticizes you on something that you have done? When someone accuses you wrongly, what is your reaction? If someone slander’s you or someone close to you what do you say in return?
As I answered the questions above, I fall woefully short. My natural tendency is to either defend my position if I think they are wrong, or my second response is to attack if they are right, but it hurts deeply (the truth sometimes does hurt). The third characteristic of a humble person is someone who does not react to criticism, accusations, or slander. No defensiveness. No reaction. No attack. No negative response. I find this characteristic the most disturbing of the three as I wrestle with this one the most.
Moses, a man of humbleness in the bible, exemplifies this trait. A little backdrop. Miriam was Moses older sister who had put Moses the baby in the reeds of the Nile and then told the Princess of Egypt, who found the child, that she would find someone to take the child and care for the child until he was older. We later see Miriam being apart of the Israelite escape from Egypt. In Numbers 12:1-2 we read, “Miriam and Aaron (Moses brother) began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. ‘Has the Lord spoke only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’
Miriam, the spokesperson and Aaron her brother were challenging his leadership and criticized his marriage to his wife. Moses had been away from his sister and brother for 40 years when he went into the wilderness. They had no knowledge of his whereabouts and Moses shows up with this edict from God to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt. Mariam and Aaron say nothing about his wife for awhile, but their criticism of Moses marriage eventually comes out. It says of Moses, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3)
Moses said nothing when the criticism began to come from his older sister. But God came to Moses’ defense, “Listen to my words: When there is a prophet among you, I the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you too afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” He did not resent the attack made upon him or attempt in any way to vindicate himself or take revenge. He was silent and allowed the Lord to handle Mariam’s criticism of his choices.
When we are criticized, accused, or slandered, God wants us to be silent. This is a hard solution to accept because we want to get our two cents in. He says that He will fight our battles. He will make the truth come forth. When Jesus was criticized and accused on the cross, He was silent. Jesus says in Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when others insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Peter seems to be reiterating the same message, “Do not repay evil for evil or insult for insult, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (I Peter 3:9) Peter goes on to say that we are to turn away from reactive actions and pursue peace.
When we are silent in the midst of being criticized, accused or slandered, it does two positive things. First our silence doesn’t throw fuel on an already started fire and causes the fire to go out if there is not fuel we’re adding. Secondly our silence can cause us to evaluate what is being said to see what God may be trying to tell us in the message we are hearing. The only way we can do this is to see a God that is able to deal with the situation and trust in His power to control our actions and words.
On this journey a humble person is one who has three attributes and ultimately honors the Lord. Take criticism as potentially allowed by God to make you better. Take it as testing what buttons are still active in your carnal nature.