By Bob Bunn
The premise of the game is pretty simple. After setting up a tower made of small, wooden blocks, the players begin to slowly remove blocks—one at a time—from the lower levels, adding them to an ever-growing top level. The goal is to get a block out and on the new highest level without sending the entire stack crashing down.
It takes a good eye and a steady hand, though. That’s because there’s a catch. As you remove each block from the lower levels, the tower becomes more unstable. The foundation erodes, and the tower loses its support. If you’re careful, you can make it last for a while, but eventually, it will fall.
And, to be honest, it’s a mess when the tower finally collapses!
Sometimes, Christ-followers play a similar game without even realizing it. It’s called “criticism,” and it can be devastating to individuals and churches. What’s more, when the game finally ends, nobody wins.
Most of us have played both sides of this dangerous game, but it starts when someone takes aim at another brother or sister in Christ. Like the tower game, we peck away without seeing the damage being done. But slowly, over time, the foundation wears away, and the walls crash in.
It’s not a pretty picture. That’s why James was so adamant about nipping criticism and disunity in the bud. He challenged his readers to stop criticizing one another (James 4:11). In fact, the Greek word he uses for “criticize” can also be translated as “slander”––speaking against others in an attempt to tear them down.
In James’s instructions, he gives two solid reasons for avoiding criticism and slander. First, it represents an attack on another believer—someone created in the image of God and saved by grace just like we are. None of us have earned the right to feel superior to anyone else or to tear anyone else down.
Second, James points out that such slander is also an attack on God’s law.
“There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (v.12).
In other words, critics think they can say whatever they want. Taken to its logical extreme, that attitude leads us to think we can “play God” and judge others. That’s not our place. Our only Judge is a Father who knows us better than anyone and loves us more than we can imagine.
James also believed that avoiding criticism and disunity was important because disunity inside the church never appeals to those outside the church. Believers must pursue unity together to provide an effective witness to the world, pointing them to our Savior.