“Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” (II John 8)
Despite just warning the church about the false doctrines that the antichrists are out propagating in the world, John now turns and admonishes his flock to “watch YOURSELVES.” He didn’t want their focus to be on others, for good or for ill — and for good reason.
There is a kind of person whose life is totally consumed with OTHER people — and not in a beneficial way. They watch for every deviation from true doctrine in others; they observe every potential mis-step in those around them, and criticize their every move. While it is true that John had just warned his readers to exercise godly discernment against the false teachings of the antichrists, yet here he is careful to warn them: “Watch YOURSELVES”:
— Don’t continually criticize people around you.
— Don’t let your ministry become marked by a litany of criticism of others.
– Don’t be among those who substitute the criticism of other people for the practice of righteousness themselves.
Jesus cautioned His followers against that practice in Matthew 7: don’t focus on the speck that is in your brother’s eye; instead work on the log that is in your own.
Don’t succumb to an unhealthy focus on other people’s lack of spirituality. There will always be those who deviate somehow in faith and practice. But YOU look to yourself. Make sure that YOUR faith is orthodox. Make sure that YOU are walking in the light and are not practicing sin. Be aware of those who are missing the mark in faith and practice, and be on guard against imitating them. But let your primary focus remain on yourself, not any of these others.
Like Paul admonished in I Timothy 4:16, “Pay close attention to YOURSELF and to YOUR teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this, you will ensure salvation both for yourself, and for those who hear you.” As John puts it here: “Watch YOURSELVES”!