Critical Thinking vs. Critical Spirit


Learn to discern the difference between critical thinking and having a critical spirit.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35, NIV). 

A family pastime while we’re driving is to look for wayside pulpits. Sometimes we come across a good one that seems tailored to a particular moment, a literal sign from God. Other times we are not so fortunate. Last week on the way home from school we passed a church with a billboard that read: “Without the bread of life you are toast.”

Reflective of her name, my ten-year-old daughter Grace commented, “That’s not very encouraging.”

Adelaide, three, cracked up.

Harper, who at eight possesses the makings of a modern-day prophet, observed, “It may not be tactful, but it’s the truth.”

Hackles rising, I tried to withhold my judgment. When my kids pressed me I blurted out, “I hate that sign and I think things like that turn people away from Jesus!” They gaped at me wide-eyed. Instantly, I felt a pang of conviction. Um, those are pretty strong words.

The still small voice persisted: There are all kinds of people in the kingdom of God. Every church sign you read, just like every sermon you hear, doesn’t have to be your cup of tea. Do you want your children to be critical thinkers, or do you want them harboring a critical spirit?

There’s a fine line between those two things—and I had just stepped over it. Again. After confessing my weakness to God, I discussed it with my kids that night, and tried to explain the difference between thinking critically and being too critical. The inevitable question became, “How do we know which is which?” I told them that (obviously) I don’t always know, but I’m working on it.

When it comes down to it, just like everything else in the Christian life, we have to rely on Jesus. The next day I passed the sign again, and the irony hit me like a brick: without Him, I really am toast. 

FAITH STEP: Ask Jesus to help you discern the difference between critical thinking and having a critical spirit. His example shows us the way. Rely on Him today to help you walk the fine line that He did.

Written by Gwen Ford Faulkenberry

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