who done it?

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 


4 thoughts on “who done it?

  1. I struggle a bit with this. I agree 100% on not blaming others, but what if blame is falling on the wrong person? It doesn’t necessarily have to be us. Aren’t we taking part in lying if we do not set it straight? What if the only way to set it straight is by telling the facts that leads to putting the blame on another? Obviously it’s wrong to search to blame others, but isn’t it just as much unjust to allow another to (even if it is yourself) to be blamed wrongfully?

    • I smile as I read your questions here because they are the same kinds of questions I was thinking through as I wrote. I understand where you are coming from. You make some really valid points. I think I was writing out of our tenedency to take it too far and make our relationships about guilt and blame and making sure people know when others screwed up and placing value on being right above valuing being loving or kind. But I do get what you are saying and yes, there are times when it is more than appropriate to identify who is guilty. Jesus didn’t back down from this and so we shouldn’t either.

      I think what Iam seeing is a need for a heart check when it comes to this issue. A good example comes in John 8:1-11. Jesus is confronted with the woman caught in adultery and does some mysterious writing in the sand after saying whoever is without sin can throw the first stone. Now, she is to blame for her actions, they are clearly wrong (as was whoever she was committing adultery with), but Jesus identifies that the people blaming her have the wrong motivation. So when they finally leave and it’s just Jesus and her he says that he will not condemn her either. It’s not that he is saying she wasn’t wrong, they both already know she was wrong. But those wanting to blame her had other interests in mind rather than just restoring her. For Jesus, blaming and identifying the guilty always seems to come with the goal of restoring not tearing down or “making someone pay” or lifting himself up. Often I think that’s how we use it.

      Does that make sense? In John 5 Jesus tells someone else to stop sinning so I think maybe the issue is that for Jesus pointing out someone’s wrong doing never stops with that observation that they are to blame or are guilty, but is centered more on helping or encouraging them to move past it into right living.

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