Confessions of a Finger-Pointer

Forerunner, "Ready Answer," August 1998

During the last few years of crisis in the spiritual body, it has been very easy for almost everyone to engage in one activity God says He absolutely hates. Isaiah 58:9 gets straight to the point:

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, "Here I am." If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness . . . then your light shall dawn in the darkness. . . .

Ah, finger pointing. It is so easy to start doing and to keep up. No training is required. Experience comes quickly. And we have so much to point our fingers at!

We've all done it, haven't we? I have probably done it more than most, and I'm not bragging. In fact, I am a reforming addict—addicted to finger pointing and trying to quit. Call it what you will—blaming, accusing, gossiping, condemning—we know what it is and that it is not good.

Appropriate? Inappropriate?

There are appropriate times to discuss problems in the body. Usually the first step is to discuss it directly with the brother or sister at issue. We should seek a proper, humble attitude and an appropriate forum for the discussion.

Sometimes, it is proper to report potentially explosive issues to the ministry. We find a case in point in I Corinthians 1:11, where Paul openly announces that the house of Chloe had informed him of numerous problems going unresolved in Corinth. This was not a case of finger-pointing or gossiping. Those of Chloe's household were talking to people who could help solve, or at least address, some major problems that affected the whole church.

The key is the underlying motivation and attitude. We do the right thing when we "go to our brother" (Matthew 18:15-18) in the right attitude (Galatians 6:1-3) or take other biblically approved means to solve problems. However, finger-pointing as commonly practiced is not approved or condoned, but rather condemned by God, since it only makes matters worse.

Myriads of Pointing Fingers

A lot of finger-pointing is going on in the church these days.

We found it particularly easy to point fingers of blame and accusation at Herbert Armstrong's successors. Thousands of fingers did—maybe even yours. Mine certainly did. Thousands more also pointed at church pastors who failed to warn their congregations of what was happening, or for disfellowshipping those who tried to warn others.

Some pointed fingers at pastors and members who left "too early." On the other hand, many of God's scattered children still point fingers in amazement at the thousands of brothers and sisters who have stayed with our former association. Perhaps we pointed our fingers at the "Laodiceans" among us. Haven't we all at one time or another succumbed to this sentiment: "Why, anyone not exactly like me has to be a Laodicean! Isn't that obvious?"

Some finger-pointers even admit they have pointed their fingers in despair at God Himself for allowing all of this!

Add to this the thousands of brethren pointing fingers at the various groups that have formed out of the original. Whole groups are pointing fingers at other groups. Now that's fun! Imagine a line of fingers arrayed for battle on one side of a field all aimed indignantly at the myriad fingers pointed right back at them from the other side! If only those fingers could launch missiles! Perhaps they do!

If you can identify the following groups by these accusations, you may be guilty of group finger-pointing:

» This group idolizes Herbert Armstrong and is too dictatorial.
» This group is led by ministers who waited until their paychecks were safe.
» This group neglects the feeding of the flock.
» This group is not doing the Work.

See, we all know which groups these describe, don't we, because we, too, have pointed our fingers and participated in the comments!

And so the finger-pointing goes. Each group feels it is the "best" of the groups. Each says it has the best sermons, the most love, and its set of doctrines is "the whole counsel of God." We feel so smug! So the children of God propagate this evil game of one-upmanship.

And I was right in there with the best of them. Sometimes I still am, to my sorrow.

It's Automatic

For whatever reason, I have pointed my finger so many times it seems to go into the "point" position automatically. Sometimes it seems locked in that position, ready for action. I have become an expert at it. Have you looked at your finger lately?

We certainly do not limit finger-pointing to church matters. This tradition is as old as man himself—older, if we include Satan's earlier accusations against God. When our forefather Adam sinned, he pointed his finger of blame at Eve, "that woman" God gave him. Eve could not stand the pressure, so she pointed at the serpent. The serpent couldn't point at anyone in this case because he didn't have a leg to stand on!

Many years later Aaron tried to finger-point his way out of a jam regarding the Golden Calf he made. He blamed the people. The congregation donated their gold "and this calf came out" (Exodus 32:21-24).

King Saul pointed at his soldiers deserting and Samuel's tardiness as good reasons to disobey God's command not to perform any animal sacrifices himself (I Samuel 13:5-13, especially verse 11). Later he tried to finger-point his way out of trouble to explain his disobedience in sparing Agag and the best of the flocks and herds (I Samuel 15).

It just seems so natural to blame or accuse someone else for our problems. Husbands do it. Wives do it. Brothers do it to sisters. Sisters even do it. Parents and children do it. You and I have done it lots of times.

It's time to see how God sees it and what He thinks of it. When we understand how awful this activity is to God, we will see it is time for God's people to stop pointing the finger. It's time to have the opposite attitude to finger pointing. It's time to live as God lives in this matter.

The Underlying Attitude

What attitude lies behind finger-pointing? Is it reflective of the forgiving love of Christ? Does it reflect the spirit of "bearing all things" or "love covers a multitude of sins"? Is the grace of Jesus Christ overflowing as we unleash the power of our pointed forefinger? As we point, are we considering others better than ourselves? Finger-pointing is so contrary to every one of the Beatitudes. Where is the peacemaker among finger-pointers? Where is the meek and the one who mourns?

Or is finger-pointing of the self-exalting, unforgiving, gossipy, division-breeding, wall-building attitudes of the Adversary? It's so self-evident that the attitude behind finger-pointing has its source in the Dragon himself. Did he not start disunity and confusion long ago by pointing his finger at our Holy God Almighty?

So how can we continue to point the finger? After all, God's word says all the virgins slumbered (Matthew 25:5). None stayed awake! Worse than slumbering, God's Word is also firm in asserting that we have all sinned and fallen woefully short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Obviously, no one honest with himself has room to point!

Since we all fit this profile, doesn't Romans 2:1 apply to us all? Paraphrased to the sense of this article, it could read,

Therefore you are inexcusable, you finger-pointer, whoever you think you are to judge, for in the way you are pointing your finger at someone else, you have three of your own fingers pointing at yourself. You see, you are guilty of the very things you condemn in someone else.

God is not attracted to, nor will He bless, someone with the finger-pointing attitude. It reflects an attitude of superiority, pride and condemnation, a holier-than-thou spirit, described by God as irritating "smoke in My nostrils" (Isaiah 65:5).

The frightening part for all of us engaged in finger-pointing is that God says He will judge us by the standard we insist on using on our brethren (Matthew 7:1-2; James 2:12-13). When I realized this, I decided I had been using a tough, judgmental standard against so many that I could see myself having no chance if God used the same standard against me! I decided it was time to sheathe my dagger-finger.

God is the Judge—not me, not you. One morning I woke up thinking, "How dare I ever say one thing against anyone, after all the horrible things I have done in my life! People could have a heyday pointing at me!" Yet before I knew it, I had unsheathed my practiced finger and was in action once more.

God is so against finger pointing that He specifically mentions it as something we need to beseech Him about as we fast (Isaiah 58:9). Though I have prayed and fasted about it, I still cannot say I never finger-point anymore. It's such a habit. It's so easy. It does not make me happy when I do it. It certainly does not leave me feeling fulfilled and deeply converted. How could it?

An Example

One of the worst things I have done with my laser-sharp finger is that I have even used it to chop up and dice one of God's gifts to me—those in the ministry, called to lead us and teach us. It was so easy to excuse myself. After all, so many refused to lead God's people in their crisis. Didn't many pastors just stand by while God's sheep were being decimated? In fact, we saw many socializing with the wolves themselves! Many had been giving shallow, insipid sermons. Many seemed to be such obvious hirelings!

The problem was that I lumped all the pastors and leaders together. That was unfair. Faithful, dedicated, hardworking, loyal servants of God have had to endure the results of this lack of respect along with the hirelings. No wonder Paul reminds us to help true shepherds to be able to pastor with joy (Hebrews 13:17-18; I Thessalonians 4:12-13).

How do we do this? I found that a teachable, willing, obedient, humble attitude stops the finger-pointing. As it became more obvious with each passing week that there are good pastors, poor pastors and hirelings, I became more grateful for the faithful ones God has given.

Hard to Break Habits

Finger-pointing is a well-entrenched habit, isn't it? It is so hard to stop doing that I momentarily considered the verse that says if your hand (including the finger) offends you, cut it off (Matthew 5:30)! If we literally did this, we would see thousands of brethren—including me—with missing index fingers! Of course, the problem is not the index finger. The problem is our gossipy, unrestrained, unforgiving, uppity, condemning minds!

What is God attracted to? A broken spirit, a contrite heart (Isaiah 66:2). The poor in spirit, the sorrowful, the meek, the seekers of righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted (Matthew 5:3-10). These people see how much they have failed God and others, and have come to realize they cannot point at anyone.

People like this truly understand how much they have been forgiven, and they find it hard to finger-point. A Christian who appreciates that God does not condemn him (Romans 8:1) does not easily turn and condemn a brother.

What should we do when we think we see a problem? God is very clear on the procedure. Matthew 18:15 says we should go to our brother, alone, privately. Discuss the concern with him and him alone. These steps work to correct problems that sometimes occur—if they are followed. We know what to do, but we do not always practice what we know.

Our focus should always be on solving the problem, not just talking about it, condemning it or gossiping about it. Get as few people involved in the matter as possible—in fact, no one else needs to know about it unless it escalates. Concentrate on the matter at hand, and do not bring up bygones. Do not burn any bridges or threaten the other with ultimatums. Remember that you are trying to gain your brother, not lose him!

The Time Is Now

It's time to stop the finger-pointing, the criticizing, the dissecting of God's gift, the character assassination against fellow brothers and sisters. It's time to beseech God to blot out our track record in this area. It's time to pray as David did, asking God to put a guard on our mouths to stop the verbal assaults that come out in concert with our pointed fingers (Psalm 141:3).

As we do, we will see the results of this repentance: more peace, love, harmony and joy in the Body of Christ, as well as in our own lives. We will also see an increase in blessings from our God. Prayerfully ponder Isaiah 58:6-12, especially verses 9-10. He has promised if our fasting and repenting stops our finger-pointing, among other things, He will send more healings, understanding, light, guidance and answers to prayer. Could we ever use all that!

Instead of tearing down, we will be repairing and building (verses 11-12). That would be nice for a change! When people leave our homes and our conversations, they will feel edified, clean, encouraged and uplifted.

I still finger-point at times. I am a miserable, finger-pointing addict trying to quit. Please pray for me and thousands like me who are beginning to see how wrong it is but cannot seem to quit once and for all. God will help us overcome it as we work together to kick the habit. When you see us unsheathing our awful dagger-fingers, please remind us that we really do not want to finger-point. Be gentle. Reflect God's patience and mercy when you do it (Galatians 6:1). And be sure your own finger is safely and harmlessly tucked away.

© 1998 Church of the Great God
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