Holster that finger and reach out

Published 10:16 pm Friday, March 22, 2013

By Chris Surber

Have you ever met a finger wagger? I have. She might be a crickety aunt who pointed at you from her front porch chair, shamingly wagging her finger at you as a small child, as you danced and played in the sun, apparently too happily for her crotchety comfort level.

Perhaps it was a Sunday school teacher who was under the false impression that shame is a better motivator than showering with support.

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Finger waggers are a prolific lot. They are found in classrooms, homes, pulpits, and other places all around. They point the finger instead of lending a helping hand.

Oh, we surely have to correct children. We have to shape the next generation and a part of that shaping is the painful act of correction. Guilt can be a good thing.

When we are wrong, sometimes we need to hear what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. To affirm someone in their poor behavior and wrongheaded assumptions prevents them from becoming all God created them to be.

There is no question that we must dish out the often poor-tasting medicine of rebuke if we care at all about our children or those we have influence over.

However, there is a world of difference between correcting when it is necessary and living the life of the fidgety, fuming, finger-wagging, wart-nose who enjoys crushing the souls of others, rather than elevating their worth.

There is a big difference between delivering truth in love and dealing out loathsome lectures and tirades.

Do you love the truth and the people who need the truth? When we love the truth but deliver it without a love for the people who need it, we become very much like the little boy who brought his father fresh spring water using an old chamber pot as the vessel to carry it. The water was valuable and beautiful but undrinkable because of the vessel.

Truth is needed but it must be carried in the clean vessel of love.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:6 NIV) When we shame others with the truth, we celebrate the evil we are decrying and crush the truth.

Are you a finger wagger? If so, consider holstering your fingers for a while and applying the words of Jesus to your heart, which will no doubt affect your words and the way you use them. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15 NIV)

I’m convinced that more people fail for a lack of encouragement in their lives than for any other single reason. I like the way that preacher of old, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, put it: “When a person is down in the world, an ounce of help is better than a pound of preaching.”

Let’s holster our fingers and reach out our hands. A pat on the back will do more and linger longer than a wag of the finger, and it is much stronger.

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at www.chrissurber.com.