Have you ever noticed how natural it feels to blame other people for stuff? It comes so easily we probably don’t even notice how often we do it. It’s second nature to experience a problem and automatically deduce who was responsible. And it’s often so subtle. Sure, sometimes in anger it can be a blatant I didn’t do it, she did! kind of blaming. But I think more often it comes in the form of just “letting people know” who forgot this or mistakenly left that. Or at work we want to clearly communicate whose responsibility that was. Or we say to someone else, “Oh, I was under the impression that you were handling that…”
We do like to blame others when bad or unwanted things happen. Much of the time we may even be right. What happened may indeed be their fault. But is it so necessary to always look to assign blame? Is it so important to always make sure that everyone around us knows exactly who fell short? Would it be the end of the world if someone mistakenly thought we were the one who blew it when it was actually someone else?
Is the most important thing identifying who was at fault?
Usually, no. Granted, when laws are broken or people are harmed finding out who did what can be important. But honestly, most of our most passionate attempts to find fault are on much, much smaller scales and the stakes are usually only as high as our pride.
I’m thinking about this because as I continue to read through Exodus I’m into chapter five. This is the point where Moses and Aaron are finally standing before Pharaoh. They make their plea—not to let the Israelites go, but just to let them go out into the desert for three days to worship God.
Pharaoh, angry at the intrusion on his slaves and the threat to their productivity not only denies the request but increases the work load on the Israelites.
“This is what Pharaoh says: I will not provide any more straw for you. Go and get it yourselves. Find it wherever you can. But you must produce just as many bricks as before!” Exodus 5:10-11
Now, remembering how Exodus 4 ends—with the Israelites hearing Moses’ story and being moved by God’s concern for them to the point of worshipping him together—you might think they would take this setback in stride. Certainly they will be upset, and of course they will be unhappy at the added work, but they’ll handle it, right? Wrong. They blame Moses. Immediately.
As they left Pharaoh’s court, they confronted Moses and Aaron, who were waiting outside for them. The foremen said to them, “May the Lord judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh and his officials. You have put a sword into their hands, an excuse to kill us!” Exodus 5:20-21
Things just took a bad turn and so suddenly God’s concern, God’s plan, God’s rescue is all forgotten. The people are suffering and this didn’t all just come together clean and easy so they look to blame. Why is it that we sometimes make the assumption that if God is helping it will come without pain or problem?
And then there’s Moses. He’s spoken directly to God. He’s seen the miracles and received the pep talk and the plan first hand. You know—the burning bush and all that. He’ll handle this well won’t he?
Then Moses went back to the Lord and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!” Exodus 5:22-23
Moses blames God. It’s funny because I’m pretty sure God told Moses this was part of the plan. Not the exact way things went down, but the fact that Pharaoh’s heart would be less than sympathetic to the Israelites and their God. And still Moses panics. And blames.
What is it with us and the blaming? For people who’ve been given so much grace, mercy and forgiveness we sure do like to label the guilty.
I wonder if it has to do with how much value our society puts on being right. Or with how little we appreciate what Jesus has done for us. Or maybe it’s just a testimony to the continued brokenness and depravity of our hearts. Whatever it is, we take far too much joy in identifying the ones who are to blame. And far too little interest in letting love cover it over.
When I look to living the radical life of Jesus I’m thinking that becoming disinterested in blaming and announcing those who are to blame may be more important than I would have first guessed.
image from deviantArt.com