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The Wicked Finger

The Wicked Finger

If he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort the uncleanness may be with which one becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and realizes his guilt . . . Leviticus 5:3

When my son was maybe four years old, he suddenly started walking around the house one day showing us his middle finger. I shouldn’t have found it funny, but I struggled to keep a straight face. I asked him what he was doing. That’s my wicked finger. That made me want to laugh even more. I asked where he learned it and he explained that he’d gotten it from another young boy he’d been playing with the day before. At that time, “stupid” was our naughty word, so we explained that showing his middle finger was kind of like calling someone stupid – We just don’t do that. A few days later, my son called something stupid, when my wife gently reminded him not to use that word. As she turned, she saw him sneakily show her his middle finger.

Evil is like that. My son spent just a short time with this other boy and quickly learned one thing – about his wicked finger – and then instantly knew how to use it appropriately (or inappropriately). To a kid, those things that are naughty are just easy to pick up. When around other kids who know more about the world, the natural transfer of information inherently revolves around that which is scandalous or taboo.

Unfortunately, I’m not that much different than that adorable four-year-old. Though I’m in my 50s, evil still rubs off all too easily on me. When I hear someone berating an annoying acquaintance, I want to join in, saying terrible things. When a coworker complains about everyone and everything, it’s my nature to complain too. If I’m not careful, the toxic attitude of others rubs off on me, determining my own attitude. Working in addiction medicine then, presents its own concerns. When my patients talk about all the drugs they’ve used, my addictive curiosity is piqued. I wonder what meth is like. . .

Evil begets evil and that which is unclean has the habit of rubbing off on anyone who bumps up against it. As Christians, we’re not to isolate from the world, ignoring it, but in today’s passage, God warned about the possibility of being infected by the evil around us. It’s not an easy balance, but we are to live in the world, showing others the love God has shown us, while keeping ourselves unstained by that world (James 1:27). Daily, we’re to love those around us, while taking care not to be sucked into their self-destruction. Just because we learn about the wicked finger, that doesn’t mean we must use it.

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