Will You “Give Away a Fault”?
‘I’M NOT interested in your Bible message. I don’t need it. I attend religious services regularly and live a moral life. Why don’t you go preach to the people across the street? I could tell you a thing or two about them. They really need some religion.’
It is not uncommon for Christians to encounter such a response as they try to share Bible truths with their neighbors. The tendency to exalt oneself and to speak disparagingly of others is nothing new. Thousands of years ago the inspired psalmist represented Jehovah God as addressing “the wicked one” with these words: “Your mouth you have let loose to what is bad, and your tongue you keep attached to deception. You sit and speak against your own brother, against the son of your mother you give away [expose] a fault.”—Ps. 50:19, 20, NW; Rotherham.
When the name of someone in your family, an acquaintance or perhaps a particular ethnic group comes up in conversation, are you, too, inclined to “give away a fault”? Likely you will admit that it is very easy to find fault with others. Many who do so feel bad and would like to overcome the problem of chronic faultfinding. The Word of God can help in this respect. How so?
‘WHY CAUSE DESOLATION?’
Consideration of the bad consequences of faultfinding can motivate people to shun it. Concerning self-righteousness, which is characteristic of those who habitually find fault with others, the Scriptures warn: “Do not become righteous overmuch, nor show yourself excessively wise. Why should you cause desolation to yourself?” (Eccl. 7:16) An individual who is “righteous overmuch” develops an exalted opinion of his personal abilities along with a condemnatory attitude toward others. The consequence for such a self-appointed critic is “desolation.” Not only do fellow humans ‘avoid him like the plague,’ but, more seriously, he loses the favor of God.
An important reason for this is that the person who continually criticizes others overlooks his own shortcomings. Yet the Scriptures plainly state that all humans are imperfect from birth. (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12) “There is no man that does not sin.” (1 Ki. 8:46) Hence, people find it highly distasteful when they are regularly criticized by individuals who are equally blameworthy.
“HOLIER” THAN OTHERS?
Perhaps you have noticed that persons who are very religious often tend to look down on others. The Bible furnishes an unusual example of this at Isaiah 65:2-5:
“I have spread out my hands all day long to a stubborn people, those who are walking in the way that is not good, after their thoughts; the people made up of those offending me right to my face constantly, sacrificing in the gardens and making sacrificial smoke upon the bricks, seating themselves among the burial places, who also pass the night even in the watch huts, eating the flesh of the pig, even the broth of foul things being in their vessels; those who are saying, ‘Keep close to yourself. Do not approach me, for I shall certainly convey holiness to you.’”
According to The Modern Language Bible, those Israelites would say: “Keep your distance, come not near me, for I am holier than you.” Just think of it. They were engaging in false, idolatrous worship. They would sit among burial places, which in itself would make them unclean. (Num. 19:14-16) Their purpose in doing so likely was to communicate with the dead—something that God viewed as detestable. (Deut. 18:10-12; Isa. 8:19-22) Moreover, they were eating swine’s flesh, another thing directly contrary to the written law of God then in force. (Deut. 14:7, 8) Nevertheless, their religious activities made them feel “holier” than others, so much so that they wished fellow Israelites to keep their distance so as not to contract sanctity. According to the Bible, even persons who practice true worship can fall prey to self-righteousness and a negative viewpoint of others.—1 Cor. 4:6.
NOT FINDING FAULT
Do you recognize in yourself a tendency to be overly critical of others? What can aid you to overcome that inclination? First of all, bear in mind that you, too, have many faults. “You are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are, if you judge,” declared the apostle Paul, “for in the thing in which you judge another, you condemn yourself, inasmuch as you that judge practice the same things.”—Rom. 2:1.
On the positive side, a perfect example of dealing with the faults of others is set by God himself. “Jehovah is merciful and gracious,” writes the psalmist, “slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness. He will not for all time keep finding fault, neither will he to time indefinite keep resentful. He has not done to us even according to our sins; nor according to our errors has he brought upon us what we deserve.”—Ps. 103:8-10; compare Luke 17:3, 4.
The Scriptures encourage Christians to imitate Jehovah God’s merciful attitude. “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another.” (Col. 3:13) Note that forgiveness is to be shown even when there is legitimate “cause for complaint.” Indicating the importance of forgiving the faults of others, Jesus stated: “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; whereas if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”—Matt. 6:14, 15.
Since the entire human family inherits sin, all have many faults. But thinking and speaking about the faults of others result only in injured relations with both Jehovah God and one’s fellowman. Rather than imitating God, the person who habitually finds fault with others reflects the spirit of the one whom God’s Word calls “the accuser,” Satan the Devil. (Rev. 12:10) Hence, the next time your conversation centers upon other persons, be determined not to give away a fault.
“But the end of all things has drawn close. Be sound in mind, therefore, and be vigilant with a view to prayers. Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”—1 Pet. 4:7, 8.