I was in Hyderabad, India, back around 1988, teaching a home schooling class of grade school kids whose parents were doing mission and social service work in the state of Andra Pradesh. Well, like someone said onetime, “Kids say the darndest things.”
One of the boys in my class was probably around the age of 7 or 8. And I’d noticed that he had a habit of making a particular gesture with his hand when he talked. He would spread out his five fingers towards you when he got excited or animated in talking about something. It didn’t look bad, just a little different and slightly strange.
So I asked him why he pointed out his five fingers like that. His answer has strongly stuck with me since then. He said,
Boy, did I laugh at that one. He’d been pointing his 5 fingers out since he didn’t want any of them pointing back at him! Ha! Probably someone else has said that before but I’d never heard it til then.
And to this day, even when I have the live classes I’ve been having here over the last months, that phrase often comes to my mind when I’m teaching something or even exhorting or admonishing someone about something. What that little boy said to me years ago comes back: there are three fingers pointing back at me.
And of course the whole idea is very Scriptural and very Biblical. Paul said, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1) That “considering yourself” part is another way of saying that we should remember that we have 3 fingers pointing at ourselves when we’re making efforts to restore others to the correct path.
So the idea isn’t that we should never admonish or caution someone who needs it. Actually, we’re our brother’s keeper and we are responsible to speak up when something needs to be said. So many people don’t even do that. But when we speak up, it should be in that “spirit of meekness”, remembering that whatever lessons or point you feel needs to be made is one that is just as much true for you as it is for the person you’re sharing it with.
The book of Hebrews says, “But exhort one another daily… lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13) Let’s face it, many people are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, right? So it is what the Lord wants us to do, to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine.” (II Timothy 4:2)
But for the most part, the only way that’s going to be effective is if you keep those three fingers pointing back at you as a part of your mindset and even witness when you’re sharing something that needs to be said with others. People are defensive. They don’t like to be criticized, much less lectured by someone with a self righteous “I am holier than thou” attitude. (Isaiah 65:5)
It’s been a real challenge for me in my life to try to find ways to say things to people when I feel pretty sure that the Lord wants me to say something but I’m not sure I can say it in such a way that it will be effective and bear good fruit. The idea is to help people “see the lightning without feeling the bolt”.
A verse that’s always been a goal for me is where it says, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. He wakens morning by morning; He wakens my ear to hear as the learned.” (Isiah 50:4) That’s what I’ve often really wanted to have, “the tongue of the learned” so that I can say something to someone who needs to hear something. But they’ll probably not receive what I say unless I’m really, really wise in how I say it.
But often it seems a major ingredient in any of this is “a meek and quiet spirit”, (I Peter 3:4) one that is not self righteous and judgmental but acknowledges that those three fingers are right there, pointing at me when I’m sharing something with someone else.