Whoever says, “You fool” will be liable to the hell of fire.  Matthew 5:22b (ESV)
I doubt any of you has ever directly called anyone a “fool”, much less your spouse. That being said, it is easy to think that this verse doesn't apply to us. However, the opposite is true – we have all have done it! When we label or make declarative statements about our spouses and others as if they are facts we are guilty of calling them a “fool.” These statements might never be said out loud, but they regularly live in our hearts and minds. Often we do this to make ourselves feel better or justify our position. These statements can be overt or subtle but in all cases we are desiring to discount the individual or their point of view. Some of these labels our mothers even taught us not to use, like calling someone stupid, an idiot, jerk, or worse. Some of these character assassinations are a little “softer” like: selfish, heartless, clueless, immature, or childish. A biblical example of this is found in John 1:46, when Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
In Matthew 5:22, Jesus exhorts us not to discount anyone, much less our spouses for any reason. When we make declarative statements or even have thoughts like these, we are essentially guilty of calling them “fools” and have put ourselves in the place of God. The Bible addresses this directly; I like how The Message Paraphrased Version puts it:
"Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor." Matthew 7:1-5
Think about it, whenever we label our spouse, or anyone for that matter, we own that paradigm. We cease to be open to changing our view or to reach out – we have ultimately entrenched ourselves into our own perception and act as if it is useless or hopeless to work with the other person. When we are critical of someone’s motives or character we are saying that the world needs to change around us – we have become self-centered.
When we become more concerned about what is in other people’s hearts than in our own we are on dangerous ground. I like how Paul David Tripp put it, “You know you are in in deep spiritual trouble when the sin of others concerns you more than your own.” It says in Colossians 3:12 that we are to “[bear] with one another and, if one has a complaint [or grievance] against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Jesus calls us to forgive and to extend grace. It is easy for me to fall into the trap of focusing on what my spouse and others have done to me, their attitude, their behavior, their character. When I get in this funk, I find hope in His Word; my prayer is that you will find hope there too.
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21
  • Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10
  • If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18
  • Therefore welcome [accept] one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:7

by Michael Burner

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