Thursday, September 05, 2019

The Problem of Finger Pointing and Finding Fault

Years ago Rachelle and I toured a wine factory in Morocco. The wine master walked us through the very tedious and precise manner in which Moroccans make their fine wine.

There is a formula to making good wine. Those who don't know the formula--or refuse to follow the formula--cannot produce fine wine. 

Likewise, there is a formula for healthy friendships. 

"You are neither the source nor the solution for the trouble or pain within me."

That's the formula.

No human being is ever the source for any problem within me. Neither is someone else the solution for the pain I feel within.

Oh sure, there are occasions when another person is a problem in terms of crossing boundaries physically or sexually, and those kinds of problems need intervention from outside source, including the police. 

But when it comes to who is responsible for the way I feel, only I am in control.

The actions of another human being can be hurtful and painful, but the Apostle Paul said, "I have learned to be content (i.e. "self-sufficient") in who I am" (Philippians 4:11). 

Many English translations wrongly translate Philippians 4:11 as "I have learned to be content in whatever state (or circumstances) I am" but the words "state" or "circumstances" are not in the original. 

We are to learn to be "self-satisfied" (happy) in who we are.

So, who am I?

Many men receive their identity from work; but that's not who we are, it's what we do. Many women receive their identity from those to whom they are related. "I'm Mary, the mother of..." or "I'm Suzy, the wife of ..." But that's not who you are; that's to whom you are related.

I tell women all the time they better not get their identity from their husbands or kids because for eternity they'll neither be married (according to Jesus) and their kids will be the same age as they are.

Likewise, for both men and women, until we get our identity from some place other than work or our careers, we'll never understand what it means to be content in who we are.

So, again, who am I?

The Apostle Paul said, "I am who I am by the grace of God" (I Corinthians 15:10).

My identity is to come from the incredible grace of my Creator

Who am I by the grace of God?

I can only begin to answer that question by saying, "I am...."

I am loved by God's grace. I am adopted by God's grace. I am guided by God's grace. I am forgiven by God's grace. I am justified by God's grace. And on, and on, and on. That's who you are by God's grace.

When I understand who I am by the grace of God, then I am "self-sufficient" regardless of my circumstances.

I may have a friend whose actions cause all kinds of trouble; but my friend is never the source of or solution for the trouble or pain within me.

God is both the source and solution for what troubles me on the inside.

The problem of pointing a finger and finding fault with others, believing that they are the reasons for the anxiety, fear, depression, hurt, or pain within me, is that I'll never get to a real solution for what ails me. 

The finger pointing is leading me down the wrong path.

My internal happiness is dependent on my comprehension of who I am by the grace of God and not whether others succeed or fail in their behaviors, attitudes, or relationships.


Victorious said...

I am the sum total of my life's experiences.

While we can be, like Paul, content, it would be unrealistic to deny the affect life's experiences have (or had) on our lives. Those experiences of necessity will include persons, places, and events that have shaped who we are at any given time in our lives.

(the Gospels) describe the full range of human emotions that Jesus felt – love, joy, grief, compassion, anger, gratitude, wonder, and desire (see Mark 10:21; John 11:5; Luke 10:21; John 11:33-36; Matt. 20:34; Mark 1:41; 3:5; 8:6; Luke 7:9; 22:15).

The Gospels say, too, that he experienced those darker emotions of a troubled human soul – loneliness, perplexity, alarm, dismay, and despondency (Mark 14:33; Luke 12:50; John 12:27).

Jesus knew the source of those emotions and expressed them openly.

If we are aware of pain, sorrow, stress, and/or anger emanating from someone in particular, didn't I read a post entitled something like "it's time to get new friends" here? If we recognize the source of the emotions above, it seems to me it would be silly and certainly unwise for our overall health, to not take some measures to eliminate them.

Scripture advises the healthy interaction between believers, but doesn't deny that tribulation will be experienced as well.

Rex Ray said...


I’ll add one more emotion that Jesus felt: ANGER. (Scripture is John 11 NLT)

“…Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so the Son of God will receive glory from this…he stayed were he was for the next two days.” (4-6)

“So he told the plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come let’s go see him.” (14-15)

“Martha said to Jesus, “Lord if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” “Yes” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” (21-24)

“Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this Martha?” “Yes Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” (25-27)

“When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.” (33)

“Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb…Roll the stone aside, Jesus told them. But Martha,…protested, “Lord, he has been dead four days. The smell will be terrible.” (38-39)

“Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” (40)

Rex Ray said...


I think you missed the boat by using the wrong translation of Paul saying in Philippians 4:11: “I have learned to be content in who I am.”

The NLT states: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.”

Wade, you would still be “I am” if you were freezing, drowning, etc., but I doubt you would be content.

Rex Ray said...


I think Jesus was more than angry: “Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, and told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (John 2:15-16 NLT)

Bob Cleveland said...

Rex Ray: I don't think Jesus was angry. Most folks seem to attribute that to Him, But I think that may be because we would never do something like that unless we'd blown our top.

I don't think Jesus needed to get angry; He simply always did what was right, what needed to be done. And consider today ... I've many times seen visiting singing groups, or speakers, sell tapes and books in the lobby, but I have never seen anybody do anything about that. Me, I simply turn around and walk right back out if I see that.

I decided in the early 1960's that I would never get angry, and "so far, so good!"

Victorious said...

Bob, anger is a natural, human emotion. It's how we handle that anger that's important. I was angry, for example, at Paige Patterson's flippant treatment of the woman whose husband had assaulted her repeatedly. He apparently thought the end justified the means when she showed up with two black eyes and her husband came to church.

Paul tells us to be angry without sinning. (Eph 4:26) When the natural emotion flares up and we lose control over it by exacting vengeance, we have sinned. (Gal. 5:19-23) Scripture tells us that as our High Priest, Jesus was able to sympathize with our human weaknesses and infirmities as He experienced them yet without sin. (Heb.4:15)

It's impossible to read Jesus' words to the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23 without observing His anger by calling them out for their hypocrisy and lawlessness and did so in front of his disciples and a crowd. If I'm understanding that chapter correctly, we should not tolerate those behaviors, but expose them instead.

Bob Cleveland said...

Victorious: Nothing Jesus did required anger.

About 30 or 35 years ago, I was involved in a conversation with a CPA, and our County Mental Health Officer. The CPA was going on about his anger problem and I told him he did not have to get angry if he did want to. He said you couldn't keep all that anger penned up inside you, whereupon I said you didn't have to let it in, in the first place. He then turned to the Mental Health Officer and said "You can't live that way, can you?"

The response, from the County Mental Health Officer, was: "If everybody had his (my) attitude, I would be out of a job."

I simply refuse to be angry, and I see no need to attach anger to Jesus, either.

Rex Ray said...

Bob Cleveland,

You said, “Nothing Jesus did required anger.”

You wouldn’t have made a whip and turned their tables upside down.

If you’d been there, you could have advised Jesus to tell the people to leave and take their animals and birds with them.

You’re sounding like Jesus and the scholars that wrote the NLT could learn from you.

I agree we’re not to be ‘hot-headed’.

My comment may be an example of Wade’s post: Finger Pointing and Finding Fault. :)

Christiane said...

I've always associated 'finger-pointing' with the Pharisee in the temple, comparing himself with 'that sinner', the Publican. We know what God thought of that behavior, sure.

But there is something interesting about 'finger-pointing' in the OT, this from the prophet Isaiah (chapter 58):

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday."

and this prophecy connects with the 'song' of Mary in the NT, which some consider to be the most revolutionary of all statements ever made:

"And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48 For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49 For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.
51 He hath shewed strength with His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away."

My own guess is that 'finger-pointing' has more to do with thinking oneself above 'that other sinner'

The idea of being 'at peace' with oneself seems more in line with this post which connects the 'Peace of Christ' with the ability to understand that someone who is attacking you may be lashing out because of their own pain, and therefore, if you don't take it personally, and lash back at them, you may be able to see them as someone more in need of help than of a 'finger-pointing' condemnation. (?)

I do not know what the evangelical equivalent is of the term in my own Church 'the Peace of Christ', but I do know that there are verses in sacred Scripture that call people to this peace, which has as its source, grace that enables us to 'let go' of angry responses and retorts, to remain calmed so that the storm can subside, and then a space can be created for you to listen to the person . . . really listen . . . it is said that God is present in the listening.

If WE are prideful, angry and upset, we cannot offer this peace to those we blame for our problems, no.
It takes a calm voice to quiet the storm.

Unknown said...

I understand some of what Wade is saying but what if the source of one's s pain comes directly from one's s pen son and unjustly so. How does one deal with that grief? And there doesn't seem to be closure to this type of pain!

Anonymous said...

If I understand the post, Jesus could have been angry but He did not NEED to get angry to deal with the money changers.

Same way some folks get all het up and angry with the abusers of various sorts in their lives (alcoholic spouses, prodigal kids who keep wanting dad's $$ to bail them out, bad neighbors, etc) think anger is part of the solution.

It never is. I can take back my power from you and refuse to let you disturb my peace. That might mean letting you spend the night in jail, walking away from a relationship, calling the cops on a neighbor who is breaking the law and harming us, etc. But I do not HAVE to get angry to deal with a situation constructively, and anger just might prevent my doing that.

Or maybe I read the post all wrong:)


Christiane said...

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed."
(Proverbs 31:8)

what keeps Christians silent when they see innocent people being persecuted?

is it 'fear'?

or is it 'because we don't have to do this, we're saved'?

sometimes 'sin', turning away from God, is a matter of NOT doing what He asks of us, and that sin is far, far more evil than we can know when we have abandoned the ones who are helpless willingly, for some kind of quid-pro-quo in the process of allowing terrible abuse by keeping silence in the face of evil

'anger'? or action in the face of terrible injustice by standing up, standing FOR others who cannot themselves stand to protect themselves

Christians can't confuse avoiding 'anger' and the'pointing of the finger'
not speaking up when they see injustice
because their silence is interpreted as complicity and their witness to Christ is harmed

RB Kuter said...

"what keeps Christians silent when they see innocent people being persecuted?
is it 'fear'?Christians can't confuse avoiding 'anger' and the'pointing of the finger'
with not speaking up when they see injustice because their silence is interpreted as complicity and their witness to Christ is harmed"

Jesus (Matthew 7: " vs3 “And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? vs 4 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? vs 5 “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."

Jesus was so smart.

RB Kuter said...

As I review Christiane's and my last comments it came to mind how we fulfill the title of Wade's post,
"The Problem of Finger Pointing and Finding Fault"