In today’s passage we see a similar pattern repeat itself three times. In times of pressure and difficulty in our world and in our churches we often see a similar pattern. The pattern has four key parts; a statement or question of some sort, a reaction, an expression of anger, followed by unjust blame.
In verses 1-9 we see Moses call Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Pharaoh refuses and becomes angry at the possibility of losing his workers, unjustly blames their laziness and decides to increase their workload. In verse 10-14 the slave drivers announce the new conditions to the people who respond by working hard to find straw. They fail to complete their quota’s and the Israelite overseers are beaten and blamed for the people not completing the work. In verses 15-21 the Israelite overseers appeal to Pharaoh about their unjust treatment and not only does he respond in anger towards them, but they also then respond in anger towards Moses and Aaron and blame them for what is happening. Moses and Aaron end up being blamed by the people they are seeking to rescue as they obediently follow God’s direction.
When something doesn’t go to plan it is easy for us to respond in the heat of the moment and blame someone else for our experience of suffering. The blame game is nothing new for humanity, check out Genesis 3 where the man blamed the woman, and the woman blamed the serpent. Sometimes we can even blame God for our circumstances. Blame might make us feel better in the moment, but it can be toxic in our communities and destructive to our relationships. Brene Brown suggests that “Blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain. It has an inverse relationship with accountability.”
Many years ago, someone shared with me the difference between blame and accountability. Blame is shifting the reason for something going wrong, onto someone else. Accountability is taking responsibility for your own part in something that happened, good or bad. Sometimes things will go wrong that you had no part in, but in those times we can help others to be accountable for their behaviour rather than engaging in blame. Blame seeds disunity in communities but accountability encourages a culture of empathy and collective problem solving. Accountability also helps us to acknowledge the complexity of many situations where issues arise.
Jesus often holds people to account for their behaviour, but he doesn’t blame and shame. He offers forgiveness, grace and mercy. Reflect on how you might be able to do the same in the circumstances you face.