“Did you watch the Spartans football game yesterday?” Joe asked his co-worker Pete.
“Yes, I did,” he replied.
“Did you see the Spartans’ coaching? It was horrible. What was the coach thinking calling a pass play on a first down with only two yards to the goal line? He should have called a running play! After all, they have the best running back in the league. They would have scored and won the game. Instead, the pass was intercepted and they lost!”
Nodding, Pete said, “Absolutely. The coach should be fired. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. Even I could coach better!”
“So could I,” Joe added.
With that, they continue working.
This sort of conversation about American football led to the coining of the term “Monday morning quarterback.” On the first day of the workweek during football season, fans discuss Sunday’s games. Analysis and critiquing of the coaches and players ensues. Everyone has an opinion. They may feel that the coach should have called this or that play, or used this or that player. Criticism is also heaped on the players and even the owner—all by those who are spectators.
These Monday morning quarterbacks’ only source of information about the game is what they see from the stands or cozy comfort of their living room armchairs, as they watch players compete on television. Operating on very little knowledge about the particular game at hand, yet thinking they are experts and “know better,” they second-guess decisions made on the field.
Yet this phenomenon is not limited to the game of football. Regardless of the sport, there are always fans that dissect games and second-guess coaches, managers, players, umpires and referees.
Beyond the realm of sports, this mindset—one of criticizing decisions made by those who have the facts, information and expertise, and the authority to act—manifests itself. Businesses, organizations, churches, governments and even families are often subject to the Monday morning quarterback syndrome. No one is immune.
What can you do to guard against this ever-present attitude?
Age of Critics
Virtually everyone has an opinion—a particular point of view—about almost everything, which is often rooted in criticism.
Whether at the local, state or national level, elected politicians publicly attack members of the opposing party. Citizens criticize politicians, and politicians the citizens. Even a nation’s highest leader is susceptible. News broadcast personalities disparage politicians, competing news media, and the average person. Hollywood celebrities and well-known business leaders are more than eager to add to the fray.
And it does not stop there. Professional sports players criticize their coaches and owners. Parishioners belittle and second-guess their ministers, and ministers do the same to those over them. Employees criticize employers, wives criticize husbands, husbands criticize wives, and children criticize parents.
Up and down, left and right, back and forth the criticism goes—much of it made public for the world to see. Television, the Internet, blogs, Twitter, YouTube and the like all make this worse and provide a perfect platform for these people to have a “voice.” From the greatest to the least, all believe they have the right answers—and their way is the only way. They are only too happy to proverbially slice and dice the ones with whom they disagree, promote themselves, and demean the other party.
All this is done from the sidelines, with the critic generally not qualified in the least bit to pass judgment.
This mindset can also infect God’s people, with the Church, Work, ministry and members often targeted. Critical thoughts find a place in a person’s mind and drive his thinking, leading him to take issue with decisions rendered—“the way things are done”—or even with specific Church members and ministers.
This is nothing new. From ancient times, the Monday morning quarterback mindset has manifested itself.
Consider Moses. God appointed him to lead the nation of Israel. More than once, Moses found himself the object of criticism. One incident involved Miriam and Aaron, who had begun to think too highly of themselves and found fault with Moses.
The Bible records, “And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses…” Why? Because he had married an Ethiopian woman sometime in the past. Using this misstep as reason to criticize him, they arrogantly proclaimed, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Has He not spoken also by us?” (Num. 12:2).
In other words, they said, “Moses isn’t the only one God is working through. He is working through us, too. We should have as much say in matters as he does. We can do the job just as well—or better!”
But their words were not said in a vacuum: “And the Lord heard it” (vs. 2). While they took issue with Moses, God took issue with them
Later, Korah, along with Dathan, Abiram and On, orchestrated a rebellion against Moses. “And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown. And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, You take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift you up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?” (Num. 16:2-3).
Korah’s actions, and those with him, were the result of a critical mindset—the belief they knew best. Although their discontent was directed toward Moses, this was actually rebellion against God’s authority!
God’s reaction to Korah makes plain how He views criticism of a person He has put in charge: “And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished…And there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men…” (vs. 32-33, 35).
Not even Jesus Christ escaped criticism. His every action was scrutinized, analyzed, dissected and second-guessed, whether by religious leaders, commoners or family.
At every opportunity, the Pharisees opposed and persecuted Jesus (Luke 11:53-54). They deliberately rumored He was born illegitimately, saying, “We be not born of fornication” (John 8:41). They called Him a self-promoter seeking a following (vs. 13). They said He was demon-possessed (John 8:48; 7:20).
Their criticism was endless. After Jesus cast a demon out of a blind deaf-mute, they claimed His power to perform miracles came from the devil: “This fellow does not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils” (Matt. 12:24). They portrayed Him as unlearned, lacking proper formal education and recognized credentials (John 7:15). They accused Him of being “a man gluttonous…a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Matt. 11:19), a Sabbath-breaker (Matt. 12:9-10), and a blasphemer (John 10:33).
Jesus could not even rely on the support of His siblings (John 7:3-4). Not yet understanding who He was, His brothers, in their unbelief, became frustrated over Jesus’ refusal to publicly show His powers. They felt He should be doing His Work—God’s Work—a different way.
Even commoners ridiculed Him: “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Imagine how all of this criticism must have felt—to be challenged, criticized and second-guessed by those who thought they knew better, but did not.
As Jesus was criticized literally everywhere He went in an apparent attempt to frustrate His ministry, one could ask: what is behind such a mindset?
Ultimately, this attitude originates from the most critical being in existence: Satan. The devil is the adversary of God and every true Christian. He is critical of everything God does—and vehemently attacks His Church, Work and people.
Eons ago, the archangel Lucifer was put in charge of administering God’s government on Earth (Ezek. 28:14; Jude 6). He received direct instruction from God on how to do this. But over the course of time, Lucifer began to question, second-guess and eventually disagree with the way God was doing things. He was convinced he had a better way.
Lucifer developed an attitude of criticism. Subtly voicing his negative thoughts—here a little, there a little—Lucifer turned the angels under him against their Creator (Rev. 12:4).
Driven by pride and arrogance, Lucifer’s denigration of God led to an attempt to seize God’s throne, power and authority. Not content with the position his Creator had given him, the archangel made a fateful decision: “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars [angels] of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be…the most High” (Isa. 14:13-14). Then, he thought, things will be done my way—the “right” way.
Though his plot failed (Ezek. 28:16; Isa. 14:12), his critical, adversarial attitude remained at the core of his thinking.
Due to this mindset, Lucifer became known as Satan the devil and began negatively influencing the thoughts of man. The first instance of this occurred in the Garden of Eden when Satan caused Adam and Eve to sin (Gen. 3:1-5). This same negative influence was at work when he tried to turn Job against his Creator (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5), and also when he tempted Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:1-9; Luke 4:3-11).
The devil has been at work this way countless other times.
Be on Guard!
The attitudes of Satan, the god of this world (II Cor. 4:4), permeate society, driving the moods and actions of the masses. God’s people must be constantly on guard.
In this age of criticism, if not careful, we can become a casualty of a critic, either because we listen to one—or become one! We must “gird up the loins of [our] mind” (I Pet. 1:13) to “be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).
Through almost 2,000 years of Church history, some have not withstood and have fallen away. It is much more dangerous for us living at the end of the age, when people are “covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers…unthankful, unholy…false accusers…despisers of those that are good, traitors…high-minded” (II Tim. 3:2-4). These traits are at home in the mind of a critic. Rather than being humble, a critic is proud, lifted up—and feels superior to those he picks apart.
It is easy to criticize the decisions of others from the sidelines. One who does this believes he has all the facts and information to render a better decision. Yet, invariably, he is not in a position to do so, whether from the standpoint of having all the facts, or from that of having authority. A critic thinks too much of himself, rather than having lowliness of mind and esteeming others better than himself (Phil. 2:3).
We are admonished to “be sober, be vigilant; because [our] adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8).
Satan’s methods never change. As he corrupted the thinking of the now-fallen angels, he seeks to do the same to us! It is in his interest—if we allow him—to instill the attitude of a critic in us.
We must “resist steadfast” (I Pet. 5:9) Satan’s fiery darts of criticism. If he can get us to disagree or take issue with the smallest decisions made by those in authority, then he has succeeded in planting a seed in our minds—which he can then nurture to full growth.
In God’s Church, children must resist the pull of criticizing their parents and questioning their decisions. Although it is wise for men to ask their spouses for advice, wives must be careful not to second-guess or criticize their husbands. As an employee, you must resist the urge to critique your manager. Members must not be judgmental of other brethren. For example, those new to the Church cannot expect perfection in longtime members, and longtime members cannot expect perfection in newer members. Instead, each ought to examine himself or herself (I Cor. 11:28, 31).
More than anything, Satan desires that we disagree with God. If he can push us down the road toward a critical mindset, he will!
Realize that this thinking always starts small. For instance, you may be upset with the way your minister “does things” or whom he may choose to use for various responsibilities in the local congregation. Or Satan might seek to influence you to take issue with where services are held or a Feast site is located. He desperately wants you to second-guess, criticize and disagree with decisions made at Headquarters.
In the end, the devil knows that if he can get you to disagree with laymembers, Christ’s ministry or Headquarters, then he dramatically increases the odds of you leaving the Church.
Beware of “growing a voice.” This is the dominant trait of the Laodicean age. Those with this mindset refuse to come under God’s government.
Remember and accept your place in the Body of Christ. It is God who has put you there (I Cor. 12:18). Do not attempt to put yourself in the position of a decision-maker or take authority you have not been given. Avoid being a “Monday morning quarterback.”
Diligently pray for and support those who have been placed in Christ’s Body, and exercise faith that Jesus Christ will guide the decisions they make.
Be grateful for the congregation you attend, regardless of its location. Be grateful for others with whom you fellowship. Pray that God will add to His Church so that those who meet alone will have others with whom they may fellowship.
Be thankful that your minister can visit on some regular basis, rather than criticizing that he is not there every Sabbath. Pray for his safety as he travels long distances to serve brethren. Pray for his health.
Philippians 2:5 tells us, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”
Christ never second-guesses or criticizes any decision His Father makes. He is in perfect agreement and harmony with God. For this reason, God “has highly exalted [given rulership to] Him, and given Him a name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9).
If we are to rule with Jesus Christ in the kingdom of God, then it is His mind we must have in us. Never give place to the devil. Never allow him to plant even the tiniest seed of criticism in your mind.
Resist the mind of a critic!